Ten years ago Arthur de Cordova, managing director and founder of Ziel, started treating foodstuffs with radio frequencies after an outbreak of salmonella in the nut business in California devastated the industry.
“At the time the prevailing technologies to kill salmonella were steam or carcinogenic chemicals,” said de Cordova. “University of California, Davis, experimented with using radio frequencies and were successful. Together with his partner Zakiul Kabir, de Cordova created Ziel to be a commercial company in the food safety business.
Arthur de Cordova, founder, Ziel.
Two years ago Ziel was approached by Los Suenos, an outdoor farm in Colorado with 40 acres that produces about 20,000 pounds of cannabis a year, to see if their application could solve a problem the farm was facing similar to the nut problem that California faced years earlier. “They were having a microbial challenge,” explained de Cordova. “The Colorado Regulation Authorities (MED) wanted to be sure that cannabis was safe for consumption which meant testing for salmonella, mold and ecoli.”
In the cannabis industry, TYMC (total yeast and mold count) is used to measure the amount of mold in the product. Ziel took on the challenge and built a machine, APEX, that eliminates mold from farmed cannabis.
Up to 20 pounds of cannabis is placed in the APEX machine with probes to monitor temperature in real time. Radio frequency is then applied at 27.12 MHz creating an oscillating electromagnetic field between two electrodes, which causes polar molecules, such as water present in the cannabis, to oscillate.
The rapid internal gyration of the polar molecules generates heat volumetrically, which then, based on processing parameters, kills targeted pathogens such as yeast and mold.
The APEX RF treatment process ensures regulatory compliance and enables the product to be safely consumed or inhaled. This organic process is chemical-free and allows cannabis to retain its cannabinoids, potency, and terpenes. The APEX can treat up to 20 pounds of cannabis in less than 10 minutes.
APEX can be used to treat cannabis in bulk pre- or post-cure. Radio frequency treatment in APEX at all stages of the process ensures that cultivators can meet regulatory compliance with confidence.
The advanced technology of APEX was designed for simplicity and ease-of-use for any operator. With pre-programmed processes, treating cannabis is as simple as pushing a button and waiting less than 10 minutes. APEX-based cannabis processing has the following advantages:
*Even with a starting TYMC as high as 150,000 cfu/g, consistently achieves regulatory compliance requirements of less than 10,000 cfu/g.
*Limited to no THC loss or decarboxylation.
*High terpene retention.
*Moisture loss of < 0.5%.
*Ability to modify moisture levels +/- 0.5%.
“The operator can process 100 pounds an hour,” said de Cordova. The mold is killed after the electromagnetic field oscillates at 27 million times a second and the creation of heat kills the mold.
“It’s non-toxic, non-chemical and organic,” he said. “Yeast is addressed as well but it’s the mold we are hunting.”
“I needed a way to get rid of yeast and mold from outdoor-grown cannabis,” said Ketch DeGabrielle, owner Qloris Consulting, who was the operations manager at Los Sueños Farms, Avondale, Colo., when their mold issues needed to be addressed.
“Our main problem was a lot of spores, “ he said. “It’s windy and dusty and the dust blows. The flower is sticky and once that dust got on there it was a big problem. We have to comply with state health codes, which say we have to less than 10,000 units of yeast and mold so I started looking around at what the food industry did. I found Ziel and together we decided to see how it would do on cannabis.”
After testing, Los Suenos Farms bought four APEX machines. “It’s effective at reducing yeast and mold,” said DeGabrielle. “It kills everything and I’m pleased with how the machine does its job.”
The stainless steel APEX machine is handmade in Italy and brought to the U.S. on demand. It takes about 12 weeks from order to delivery. The machine is seven ft. deep and seven ft. wide, and costs $250,000. Ziel provides support. “We’re a turnkey solution,” said de Cordova. “We program the recipes and train the operators.” Training an operator takes a day.
The payback period on APEX, according to de Cordova is compelling. “With mold and yeast levels beyond regulatory compliance, cultivators may have to discount their product by as much as 75 percent, representing a greater than $1,000/lb. opportunity cost,” he stressed. “If a cultivator has just five percent incidence of mold and grows 20,000 pounds per year, this can mean $1,000,000 in lost revenue, or $83,000 a month. APEX is $250,000 and the payback period is three months…or just six weeks if the mold incidence is 10 percent.”
DeGabrille agreed that the APEX provides great ROI. “After five or six harvest batches the machine pays for itself. It’s a no-brainer,” he said.
Ziel currently does about 10 percent of its business in the cannabis business and de Cordova believes that “within two years time it will be 25 percent or more.”