Cannabis Culture

Farm to freezer: Why ‘fresh-frozen’ is taking on the hashish harvest

David DownsOctober 9, 2019

Fresh-frozen cannabis gets turned into THC diamonds at Utopia Cannabis in California. (Courtesy Utopia Cannabis)

Contemporary-frozen hashish will get became THC diamonds at Utopia Hashish in California. (Courtesy Utopia Hashish)

Harvest season is upon us throughout North America and within the cannabis-growing heartlands of inland Northern California, there’s a brand new fall scarcity: dry ice.“It’s robust. The dry ice is gone,” stated Alien Labs founder and operator Ted Lidie, when speaking about harvesting three acres in Yolo County, California, this month.

Over the past six years, the thought of freezing half—or all—of 1’s hashish harvest has gone from weird to necessary. A full 30% of Alien Labs’ coveted new pressure Planet Dosi is heading straight from outside fields into the freezer this 12 months.

California’s largest cultivation licensee, Uncooked Backyard, freezes 100% of their harvest, notes Jason Guillory, from Nug extracts of Oakland, a Uncooked Backyard contractor.

Ben Grambergu at Grambergu Advertising and marketing in Northern California says: “A pair years in the past, in the event you instructed somebody you had been going to freeze 100% of your crop, they’d let you know you had been loopy. Now, we’re seeing 100% frozen harvests, and actually massive farms: eight,000-pound harvests. It’s completely taken over.”

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Why frozen?

Demand for extracts

Driving this pattern is shoppers. They need pure, high-THC hashish extracts in smooth vape pens which can be straightforward to dose and don’t odor. Farmers have responded by shopping for up industrial freezers—plus utilizing dry ice within the fields—and are sending the frozen crops straight to extract labs, skipping the standard harvesting course of.

Harvest value financial savings

Freezing harvested hashish can save a lot of time, labor, and danger—and likewise cash, says Ed Rosenthal, co-author of the 2017 crop science ebook Marijuana Harvest (this story’s writer, David Downs, is Marijuana Harvest’s co-author).

Vigorous competitors places monumental stress on farmers, squeezing their revenue margins and making farming vastly extra environment friendly. Contemporary-freezing saves tons of money on harvesting man-hours and drying rooms. “It eliminates complete steps,” stated Rosenthal. “The extra subtle the farmer, the extra doubtless they’re to do this.”

How farmers freeze

To get to pure extracts at low value, farmers have flipped the millenia-old strategy of harvesting on its head.

Conventional strategies

Within the spring, farmers within the Northern Hemisphere sew the fast-growing crop. In fall, farmers harvest buds at peak ripeness, when aromas and cannabinoids—like THC—close to peak ranges.

You get smokeable flower by chopping down the ripe plant and air drying its buds in a cool, dry, darkish room for about ten days. Weeks or months of curing can comply with to excellent the odor and style of boutique bud.

Conventional air drying is a battle in opposition to temperature and humidity spikes to keep away from mould and fungus and protect valuable terpenes and THC.

Ditching custom

However farmers are more and more saying ‘Screw all that’ with fresh-frozen. They chop crops, take away the leaves, branches, and stems, and vacuum seal buds in thick plastic pillows weighing two to 4 kilos. These pillows go into in an industrial freezer at -38°F, and the low temperatures lock in every thing for processing at a later date: flavors and terpenes, cannabinoids (THC, CBD, and so on.), in addition to all of the water.

“You’re not apprehensive about degradation as a lot [in the plastic pillows],” stated Grambergu. “The shelf life on that versus an everyday pound in a turkey bag are very completely different.”

A Utopia Cannabis technician holds up bags of fresh-frozen cannabis. (Courtesy of Utopia Cannabis)

A Utopia Hashish technician holds up baggage of fresh-frozen hashish. (Courtesy of Utopia Hashish)

Getting from frozen buds to stay resin

Subsequent comes industrial solvent extraction.

Technicians finely grind the frozen buds right into a powder, pack kilos of it in thick, stainless-steel tubes, and blast a solvent like butane by way of it, which pulls out all of the fresh-frozen terpenes and cannabinoids. Water crystallizes and separates from the plant materials.

The result’s a freezing chilly, golden liquid. Technicians then purge the solvent, forsaking focus, which is normally 4 or 5 occasions stronger than flower.

This extract goes into what’s taken over the focus scene—stay resin, which is utilized in dab rigs and pens, in addition to pre-filled stay resin vaporizer cartridges like Loudpack’s Mimosa pod for the Pax Period. “Reside resin is what’s driving this,” stated Grambergu.

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Reside resin makes up a few of the most fragrant hashish merchandise. And the odor is way much less smelly than lighting up some flower.

“It comes right down to ease of use,” Lidie stated. “As new shoppers enter the market, they don’t essentially need to reek of pot… I can dab in my workplace and it doesn’t permeate by way of my complete house. If I smoke a joint, the entire home goes to stink.”

Results from fresh-frozen extracts could also be completely different too. Cannabinoids keep at peak ranges with nearly no degradation. Freezing preserves terpenes that will in any other case be misplaced to weeks of drying and curing.

Fresh-frozen material yields Banna OG live resin at Nug extracts of Oakland, CA. (Courtesy of Nug Extracts)

Contemporary-frozen materials yields Banana OG stay resin at Nug extracts of Oakland, CA. (Courtesy of Nug Extracts)

“Basically the sensation you get is revolutionary,” stated Tracee McAfee, CEO of Cryo Remedy, a Michigan-based hashish freeze-dryer start-up. “It’s clean, uplifting, sparkly, inventive, and social, with no couchlock impact and no crash.”

Extra merchandise past stay resin

Past a few of the greatest, terpiest dabs, fresh-frozen harvests assist energy the huge manufactured items marketplace for THC-infused meals, drink, sweet, topicals, and tinctures. Many farmers elect to ship their total harvest straight to grease, also called distillate.

Contemporary-frozen is altering hashish farming past simply rising for the dankest bud. Horrible-looking flower may need nice terpenes and go into edibles. Farmers are sending the A-grade buds to the drying room, whereas freezing all of the B-grade buds, small budlets, and re-growth on outside crops after the preliminary harvest, stated Grambergu.

And farmers are shifting previous the annual harvest cycle within the fall to additionally develop small, brief, winter hashish crops in greenhouses only for extracts, stated DiPaci.

Rosenthal notes that such manufactured merchandise had been the majority of the market earlier than prohibition started within the ‘30s. “The entire purpose we acquired to smoking flower was as a result of it didn’t require as a lot processing, which you can not do when it was unlawful.”

“As a substitute of, ‘You develop weed to make kilos of flower,’ it’s, ‘You develop weed to make merchandise—you develop weed to make cannabinoids, and to make terpenes.’ It’s not ‘indicas and sativas’ anymore,” DiPaci stated. “It’s a manner completely different panorama.”

The brand new frontier—stay rosin

For some extract aficionados, mere stay resin received’t lower it—they’ve moved onto stay rosin, which comes from fresh-frozen hashish extracts untouched by butane or another solvent.

Firm Paradiso has partnered with boutique model Fields to launch restricted, artisanal runs of extracts utilizing this course of. Paradiso moist trims and freezes the perfect one p.c of its harvest—its Grandiflora and Zkittlez strains—utilizing a surge of 20 trimmers working quick, as a substitute of the same old dry trim workforce of 9. “It’s rather more labor intensive,” DiPaci stated.

Corporations like Blue River have perfected trade-secret strategies to extract cannabinoids and terpenes from frozen hashish whereas leaving every thing else behind. They’re utilizing features of sublimation—the place water will get eliminated by way of freezing as a substitute of drying—and so they’re utilizing mechanical separation strategies. It’s very time-intensive and requires such high-quality supplies that the ensuing extract is value 4 occasions extra per gram than gold—for instance, Synergy’s Micho Flan goes for $165.

“It creates the perfect extract available in the market. It’s rather more labor intensive and there’s much less return. That’s why it’s so costly,” stated Grambergu. “One of many coolest elements about hashish is experimentation. Each farmer has all the time been interested by ‘What occurs in the event you do that or that?’ Clearly freezing is likely one of the strategies that has damaged by way of and confirmed to be value their time. I believe we are going to proceed to see farms transfer increasingly more towards this.”

Freezing hashish harvests is a disruptive know-how that’s right here to remain.

David Downs's Bio Image

David Downs

David Downs directs information and way of life protection because the California Bureau Chief for Leafly.com. He is written for WIRED, Rolling Stone and Billboard, and is the previous hashish editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, in addition to the writer of a number of hashish books together with ‘Marijuana Harvest’ by Ed Rosenthal and David Downs. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. TW: @davidrdowns | IG @daviddowns

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