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Delta County Independent: EcoGen BioSciences takes the lead in CBD manufacturing

Greenhouse hemp
Like the steadily-maturing hemp industry, the story of Kadenwood’s EcoGen BioSciences is both simple and complex. Utilizing a combination of quality raw materials, basic science and patented processes, EcoGen describes itself as “a leading vertically-integrated manufacturer and supplier of hemp-derived specialty ingredients, proprietary formulations, and private-label finished products.”

In other words, the corporation processes commercial hemp harvests into viable consumer products and does so using a business practice known as “vertical integration.” TheStreet, a financial news and literacy website co-founded by financial guru Jim Cramer, defines vertical-integration as “a strategic structure where a company owns the supply chain for its product…from taking raw material to turning it into a product and selling that product.”

Commercial hemp plants are grown to yield cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD is believed to have medicinal applications. It differs from industrial hemp which is grown for its fiber and also differs from marijuana which has psychoactive properties. Using CBD products such as honey sticks, salves and tinctures may make you feel better, but they won’t get you high. Marijuana contains sizable concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD contains no more than three-tenths of one percent (0.3 %) THC.

50,000 feet and 165 acresAs president of EcoGen BioSciences, Garrett Bain is enthusiastic about the corporation’s growing enterprise. EcoGen has long had a presence in Grand Junction. In 2020, EcoGen’s parent company Kadenwood, LLC, acquired General Processing, a Colorado-based hemp processing and extraction company located along Hwy 50 south of Delta. That acquisition includes a 50,000-sq-ft production campus and 165 acres of farming land.

To Bain, the new digs mean that he’s able to increase efficiency by consolidating his workforce and manufacturing functions into a single production facility. Which is vital because business is booming.

“We’re running wide-open at the moment,” he said while conducting a recent tour of the newly acquired site. It’s a trend which will likely, in coming months, require a 24/7 production schedule. Right now, the Delta site employs 70 with no immediate plans to expand the workforce. Eventually, jobs will be posted as they become available.

From genetics to seeds to productAccording to a Nov 13 news release, EcoGen’s offerings include raw hemp “isolate and distillate, custom formulated hemp-derived products and general processing of hemp biomass for use in consumer-facing products of all kinds.”

The new Delta-based facility includes an analytic testing laboratory and test plots. Complementary seed, greenhouse and genetic operations are housed in Palisade. EcoGen provides seeds to large farming operations. Seeds are specially formulated to grow uniform plants in well-irrigated Western Slope soil.

Harvested hemp—known to the industry as biomass—arrives at the facility in large bulk bags. The biomass is saturated with food grade ethanol in what amounts to a high-tech washing machine. The saturated solution is super-cooled to extract “crude hemp oil” and remove and reuse the ethanol. The resulting crude oil is further distilled, producing a bi-product of dark organic plant matter and a precious amount of honey-colored CBD. The extracted and distilled CBD is further refined into powder and other forms which are either wholesaled to other producers or crafted into consumer products.

A bright future for hempThe hemp industry continues to evolve. In 2019 and last year several farmers chose to grow on speculation, without a firm idea of where to market their hemp. This caused an oversupply. Bain’s best advice to farmers considering hemp this year is to make certain they have a contract to sell their crop.

“If you don’t have a home (for your crop),” he said, “don’t plant.”

Because EcoGen relies on a large and uniform crop, the company only works with large farming operations and co-ops of smaller farms. When EcoGen supplies a farm with seeds, the company commits to purchase the crop. Recently, EcoGen launched a new program to distribute seeds to qualified farms (See “EcoGen offers new ‘Plant Now, Pay Later’ hemp program” in the Apr 7 DCI.)

Bain feels that the hemp industry will continue to grow as the retail marketplace expands. At present, most consumers acquire CBD products through specialized outlets. Ultimately, he thinks, the market will blossom when government policies stabilize and products start appearing on the shelves of big-box retailers.

The Delta facility recently completed a dietary supplements inspection conducted by ASI International, a leader in raw materials for the nutrition, cosmetic and food industries. ASI certification positions EcoGen to meet regulatory compliance and industry standards for dietary supplements. So, the future looks bright for EcoGen.

For more information, visit the company’s website at ecogenbiosciences.com.

Our interview with president of EcoGen BioSciences, Garrett Bain can be found on YouTube here: