Jessica McKeil   |   March 25, 2020

Cannabis, Beer, and Earthly Labs: A Beautiful Partnership

Colorado is a state known for two things: a robust craft beer industry and a booming recreational cannabis sector. What happens when they team up?
Jessica McKeil is a freelance writer focused on the medical marijuana industry, from production methods to medicinal applications. She personally found relief through cannabis for the treatment of her panic and anxiety disorder. She is lucky…

A recent four-way partnership between Colorado State, a craft brewery, a cultivation facility, and Earthly Labs is bringing these entities into a marvelous synergistic relationship.

The concept behind the state-supported pilot project is simple enough: capture carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced by breweries to reduce greenhouse emissions. Earthly Labs, the company behind this project, works with Denver Beer Co. and the state of Colorado to make what was once a wasted byproduct into a profitable new venture. The Clinic, a cultivation facility, benefits from a clean, reliable source of CO2 for cultivation.

The brewery and the cultivator benefit from a smaller carbon footprint and create a closed carbon system. There are economic and environmental benefits for all the players in this relationship.

Technology Provided by Earthly Labs

The basis of the project lies with a technology created by Earthly Labs. The company is focused on "accessible carbon capture technology to allow businesses, organizations, and consumers to help cool the planet by avoiding carbon dioxide emissions."

And their first gift to Brewers? CiCi.

While multinational breweries like Anhiemer Bush and Molson Coors have the budget necessary to build million-dollar carbon capture systems within their purpose-built breweries, smaller craft brewers have largely been unable to benefit from this same technology. Brewing beer in refurbished warehouses, CO2 technology just wasn't an option.

That is until CiCi Carbon Capture came along. CiCi is a plug-and-play technology created explicitly for craft brewers. This innovation from Earthly Labs helps small breweries reduce their emissions from fermentation and brite tanks by up to 50 percent.

The technology produces a salable product from what was typically wasted, dispersed into the local atmosphere. The CiCi solution provides CO2 suitable for the food industry, thanks to a purification technology to dry, scrub, and liquify the greenhouse gas from common contaminants (moisture, oxygen, and acid gases).

For the first time, small companies have the same access to this technology as the big players, which means the opportunity to reduce emissions and sell what would otherwise be wasted. CiCi is an eco-friendly solution that does what many supposedly green technologies do not — it makes going green profitable.

Beer: Meeting State Carbon Emissions Goals by 2040

The driving force behind Earthly Labs is a shift in policy from the state of Colorado. In 2019, Coloradans threw everything they had into building a greener future. By 2040, the state plans to have switched to entirely renewable sources of energy. Plus, in the next few decades, they've laid the groundwork for reducing carbon emissions by 50 percent below 2005 levels.

The partnership between the state, Earthly Labs, The Clinic, and Denver Brewing Co. is just one piece of that puzzle. But why target breweries? Earthly Labs estimates that craft breweries are responsible for 500 billion metric tons of CO2 emission. But interestingly, the very same industry purchases CO2 for use in their production process.

Breaking that down into a more digestible number: a six-pack of beer creates a substantial amount of greenhouse gases. Sestra, a beverage tech company, estimates that a six-pack generates around 3,200 grams of emissions. While it's not all attributable to the fermentation stage, about four percent is. Multiplied by the thousands of six-packs pumping out of thousands of breweries, and it's easy to see why targeting the fermentation process is worthwhile for carbon reduction.

Cannabis Cultivation: Completing a Synergistic Relationship

Economically, it only makes sense for the brewery to reuse the CO2 expressed during fermentation back into their production lines. Beer emits CO2, but it also requires it for carbonation. But, it's not 100 percent reusable. Breweries will always emit more than they can rescue.

Yet, for Earthly Labs, this creates an exciting business opportunity. As reported by the Denver Post, Charlie Berger, co-founder of Denver Beer Co., expects each batch of beer to fill a full 500-lb tank fo CO2. The financial potential of recapturing technology like CiCi is clear.

As this pilot partnership has demonstrated, the cannabis sector has an urgent need for a clean, food-grade CO2 supply. This project captures CO2 and, following purification, delivers ready-to-go CO2 tanks to The Clinic, a nearby cultivation center. During the cultivation process, the CO2 gets released to improve photosynthesis and stimulate a bigger, better flower development. In the future, there may even be an opportunity to use this source for CO2 extractions as well.

Considering some producers still combust propane or natural gas to increase atmospheric levels of CO2 in the grow room, recaptured CO2 is a far more efficient and eco-friendly option for cultivators. It's a beautiful synergistic relationship with multifaceted benefits for each player.

 

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