The new facility covers 50,000 square feet in the northern Colorado city of Greeley. The facility has been built from scratch, said director Deepank Utkhede, who led a recent virtual tour of the facility. This sets it apart from some other facilities that have been retrofitted from other uses, he said.
CO2 and solvent extraction capabilities
The new facility will have both supercritical CO2 and solvent extraction lines to meet varying customer needs, Utkhede said. The facility has been designed around pharmaceutical production standards, with managed airflow, airlocks, in house water purification and other safeguards in place. Production of CBD active pharmaceutical ingredients is one of the markets Vantage Hemp intends to enter, he said.
Vantage Hemp is already working with hemp farmers in Colorado, Oregon and Kentucky to test out the best methods for biomass intake, Utkhede said. The construction of the company’s two buildings has been complete for several months, but much of the equipment is still being installed. Utkhede said the company expects to have that phase buttoned up sometime in mid August.
Along the way, though, Vantage Hemp has been testing out its production processes even as electricians continue to run cables in some parts of the facility. Utkhede said the CBD extraction industry is still so new that much of this is still being worked out. Most of what has gone before has been seat-of-the-pants engineering, he said.
Gathering baseline data
“At the moment we can process up to 1 ton of biomass per day,” he said. “From what we’ve seen, what some others in the industry have done has not been based on data, but rather was based on experience. Because of the lack of precise information we have decided to invent our own process and collect data on it.”
That process included what kind of brushes to use in the machine that separates leaves and flowers from stems, and how best to set up the milling machine, Utkhede said. The company has been running tests and analyzing the results as it learns along the way.
The company has a CO2 extraction line running, which will generate full spectrum hemp extracts once it is up to production speed. And the company is also testing its solvent extraction line, which uses propane cooled to -50 to -60 degrees Fahrenheit. The line will be a high-throughput part of the facility, Utkhede said, and will be able to produce ingredients of varying specifications up to 100% isolate.
“We will have a capacity of four tons a day using liquid propane,” Utkhede said. “And we will used a special tangential flow filtration system that separates the molecules based on molecular weight.”
Room for growth
The facility was purposefully designed oversize to allow for growth and to incorporate what the company’s process engineers learn as the plant enters full scale operation.
“The facility as it stands today is not fully utilized,” Utkhede said. “If we find we have a bottleneck we can use that additional space for new equipment.”