RF Technology to Kill Cannabis Pathogens

Cultivators are successfully using radio frequency technology to ensure they are meeting regulatory requirements for microbial contaminants.
Stephanie Piantanida is a freelance writer involved in multiple aspects of the cannabis industry. In addition to writing, Stephanie has and continues to work within the medicinal industry in multiple states. Through her writing she hopes…

As the cannabis industry continues to grow and seeks to legitimize itself, one way states gain support and legalization is through regulatory compliance programs.    One of the many purposes of regulatory compliance programs is patient and consumer safety.  Protocols, such as lab testing, are put in place to ensure that no end-user is inhaling or ingesting something unsafe for consumption.

Ziel APEX 7 image is courtesy of Ziel.

The purpose of lab testing is more than finding out cannabinoid content; labs are testing for different factors that might render the product unsafe, therefore unusable.  Labs can test products for elements such as residual solvents, mycotoxins, and microbial contaminants, being yeast and mold to name a few.   Currently, Los Sueños Farms (the largest outdoor cannabis farm in the United States, located in Colorado) and The Green Solution (vertically integrated retailer, cultivator, and producer based in Colorado) are using radio frequency (RF) to manage and reduce their yeast and mold counts.  By lowering their total yeast and mold counts (TYMC), these companies are ensuring that their products comply with Colorado regulatory measures, thus staying compliant while producing safe products for end-users. 


TYMC – What Is The Harm In It?

Unfortunately, cannabis creates the perfect environment for growing mold and yeast, making plants that much more susceptible to it.  Yeast and mold are different in every geographic region, however, depend on the same environmental factors to thrive: humidity, rainfall, fertilization and air moisture to name a few.  In addition to environmental risks, growing plants outdoors also exposes plants to a wide variety of other fungal species in addition to environmental factors.

There are numerous risks involved with yeast and mold, which is why testing for TYMC is a part of most regulatory programs.  Ingesting yeast and mold imposes serious health risks for consumers, as the toxins and spores in can thrive in the lungs.  As many cannabis users may have compromised immune systems, this is especially dangerous, because it can lead to invasive lung disease that can be difficult to diagnose and treat.  Yeast and mold in cannabis can, and undoubtedly will, affect profitability, industry support and yield laborious processes such as product recalls.


Using RF to Combat Yeast and Mold

Such as with other technologies that are new to the cannabis industry (genome testing, GMOs), the use of RF in agriculture has been around for over a decade.  Used primarily on nuts and seeds, RF is a practice that is significantly less-harsh than using chemicals and has minimal impact on the end product.  The process, which includes no chemical additives, meets organic labeling standards, and because there is practically no impact on the plant’s flavor, aroma and cannabinoid content, it is gaining popularity within the cannabis industry.

In using RF, the product is passed through, or exposed to, an electromagnetic field.  The exposure causes a rapid oscillation of ions and polar molecules, such as water, which generates heat and kills targeted contaminants.  This short process, where 20 pounds of cannabis can be processed in as little as 15 minutes, has been exponentially efficient for its end users.   Currently, both Los Sueños Farms and The Green Solution are using technology created by Ziel, a food safety solutions company.

Ziel’s RF technology is used in multiple countries around the world to ensure that companies are meeting their regulatory requirements.  A turnkey solution, Ziel offers cutting edge technology combined with handcrafted machine design.  Through the RF process provided by Ziel’s machines, cannabis that has started with as much as 150,000 CFU/g has been reduced to less than 10,000 CFU/g, thus meeting Colorado's regulatory requirements.  In this short and efficient process, there is virtually no decarboxylation or potency loss.  Terpene retention remains high, as well as taste, aroma, and appearance. 

The ease and scalability of using Ziel’s RF technology has yet to be felt across the industry, however, for those that are using it, their ROI is tremendous.  The machines are around $250,000 but, depending on the size of the operation, pay for themselves in just a few months.  RF technology can save these businesses from losing profits due to high TYMC, as well as protect their brand and the integrity of the industry.

As the industry expands, the regulatory requirements within the industry will continue to evolve. Implementing RF technology is helping companies to meet compliance requirements, as well as becoming a viable part of the overall effort to supply safe products to end-users.