What’s in store for the future of cannabis? Higher-potency concentrates? Dairy-free cannabutter? Or something we haven’t even envisioned yet? Something revolutionary. Something that, in retrospect, will seem obvious. And we’ll wonder how we ever lived without it. Bioharvest Sciences may have done that for cannabis. Recently, they’ve produced cannabis without growing the plant itself.
So is this like the lab-grown meat version of cannabis? Are we all going to start smoking the cannabis equivalent to Beyond Burgers?
“No,” Ilan Sobel, CEO of BioHarvest, says with a laugh, “this is super different.”
From Red Wine to Cannabis
If you’ve heard of BioHarvest before, it’s likely because of their VINIA product. VINIA is a supplement that provides all the cardiovascular benefits of red wine without any of the alcohol sugars. So is this the future of cannabis? Cannabinoid supplements without feeling the high?
Not exactly. While BioHarvest is converting its 2 tons/year facility in Rehovot, Israel from grapes to cannabis, we’re not talking about some indoor farm. We’re talking patented technology in plant cell biology.
“We built this platform technology which allows us to bring the power of the plant to the people,” says Ilan Sobel. “So the technology that we have which we call BioPlant CELLicitation allows us to be able to take any essential active ingredient from a plant to any essential active medicinal compound.”
“We took the skin of the red grape, we took the cells of the red grape, cells from the actual seed, cells from the flesh. We started to grow cells in a petri dish and then we moved them into our bioreactors. And through very unique technology… we figured out how to grow these cells in bioreactors in a way that we were able to increase the levels of the king polyphenol.”
And now, BioHarvest can grow cannabis compounds in cells in bioreactors. “The most challenging plant in the plant kingdom,” says Ilan.
How They Created the Future of Cannabis
Experts told BioHarvest that it’s impossible to use this technology on cannabis. Because, as Ilan explains, “In our platform we only use the plant once and then we create the cells and we store the cells in a cell bank. And every time we grow, we’re just using the cells. We don’t actually need to go back to the plant.”
“They said, “Listen, when you grow yourselves, in the red grape case, you’re growing the polyphenols inside the cell. The difference is in the cannabis plant the most critical part of the cannabis plant is the mini-factory holds the trichrome.”
“So they said it’s impossible… what I’ve learned from this whole process is that when you tell five top Ph.D. plant cell biologists, Israeli-Jewish females, that you can’t do something, it’s just a matter of time until they figure it out.”
Patented and protected, the technology allows BioHarvest to grow trichomes in liquid media and bioreactors. Because of this, they are in perpetual flower mode. They’re growing significant kilos. Full-spectrum non-GMO cannabis with, “fingerprint consistency because we’re keeping the conditions constant.”
“We have a level of cleanliness the world hasn’t seen before,” says Ilan. With the BioHarvest method of using aseptic bioreactors, there is no risk of mould or plant viruses. They use 90% less land than an average size indoor cannabis farm. There are no solvents or pesticides. All the water used is biodegradable and goes back into the water system.
And where an average kilogram of cannabis flower is associated with 4600kg of carbon dioxide emissions, BioHarvest says it only takes 2kg of C02 emissions to produce 1kg of their cannabis. “My energy consumption is a fraction of what it takes indoor cannabis growers,” says Ilan, “and because of that, as well, it has major implications on costing.”
“The capital efficiency of what we do is a game-changer. From my discussions with major cannabis companies, I believe we are seven times more capital efficient,” says Ilan.
“There is no technology out there that comes close to us on the sustainability perspective.”
Are Consumers Ready for the Future of Cannabis?
Imagine buying cannabis catered to your tastes or medical needs. A gram of cannabis with higher amounts of CBD and CBG than THC. A gram of cannabis with no CBD at all. Through the BioHarvest process, increasing minor cannabinoids to higher levels is no problem. Same goes for lowering major cannabinoids. Whatever unique ratio of cannabinoids you want, the future of cannabis can make it happen.
“Which is super interesting,” says Ilan, “as you start to think about the medicinal applications.”
And the texture is not all that different. While old-school aficionados will likely stick to their flower, the average consumer is going to be less picky. Especially when flavonoids have been crafted to match consumer preference.
Despite its differences in looks, you can still smoke it. You can roll it or vape it. You can use it for extractions. “This basically has all the applications that cannabis flower has today,” says Ilan. “Except I’m consistent, I’m clean, and I have a unique full-spectrum composition you can’t find in the flower.”
The Future of the Future of Cannabis
Listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange, BioHarvest has a strong presence in Canada. How soon can consumers expect this future of cannabis to hit the shelves? Ilan Sobel is aiming for 2023. Currently in conversation with major cannabis companies, BioHarvest is also watching Health Canada.
“If you think of biosynthesis, we’re literally the antithesis of biosynthesis,” says Ilan. “Biosynthesis is using yeast and mould to grow single isolate cannabis. And it’s genetically modified. We’re on the other end because we’re all about full-spectrum and non-GMO, and we have a very different type of process.”
Since Health Canada has approved biosynthesis, it’s likely they won’t have a problem with this technology.
“We don’t foresee any regulatory challenges ahead of us as we look to bring our product into the North American market,” says Ilan, “We solve many problems for the regulators.”