Agri-Tech start-up addresses global demand for energy-efficient plant extracts
Plant extracts are valuable for pharmaceutics, food flavourings and perfume but the equipment needed for extraction is so expensive, even big growers are forced to outsource. NovaExtraction is addressing this global problem with a low-energy extractor that is gaining interest as a means to gain a high yield of cannabidiol (CBD) from leaves of Cannabis sativa. The company will be opening a showroom shortly.
Co-founder of Nova Extraction, Alex Novitskiy says: “Carbon-dioxide (CO2) based extraction methods are generally recognised as a good all-round solution for plants, especially when high value products are at stake, for unprecedented purity and non-destructive nature of the process.
“However, one problem with (CO2) extraction in general is the expense – there’s a difficult decision between the high set-up cost of a permanent on-site extraction, or the alternative of outsourcing the extraction process, and facing a high yearly cost.
“So, we had this crazy idea to make a mobile extractor that would enable even small producers to be able to produce plant extracts from niche crops by renting equipment on demand.”
Nova Extraction presented in the Start-Up Showcase of Agri-TechE’s REAP conference in 2018 where it attracted the attention of potential collaborators, and is planning to open its first UK showroom in May. “NovaExtraction has a unique multidisciplinary approach to the problem of plant-volatile extraction. It’s fantastic to see Alex’s work bear fruit, and it really shows the benefit of taking a fresh perspective,” says Dr Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-TechE.
A principal selling point of the Cannabis sativa crop is its array of products, including hemp fibres from the stem and valuable volatile extracts from the leaves. Cultivation of hemp and cannabis in the EU is at 50,000 hectares and continues to expand[i].
Alex continues: “We looked at how we can reduce extraction costs, especially to those just getting established. This led us to design a unique piece of equipment; a low-energy extractor that works off-grid and that can be deployed on-site, almost anywhere in the world and easily transported as required.”
When Nova Extraction unveiled its product at the REAP it was aiming at the perfume, food and healthcare industries – but they’ve since captured the attention of hemp and cannabis growers. The low operating temperature of the CO2 extraction method is thought to lend itself to protecting and maximising yield of fragile non-stable products, like antioxidants.
With three units already up and running, and two more in development, Nova Extraction’s UK showroom will offer trial extractions to interested parties. They are also currently in a passive open round of funding seeking £1.5million to get their rental model off the ground.
For those wishing to learn more about the UK cannabis and hemp sector in general, Agri-TechE hosted an online event on Thursday 14th of May, and is planning a much bigger event in which speakers will discuss the challenges and opportunities in this emerging market. A report of the event, titled ‘Farmer to Farma: A Teaser of Things to Come’, is available free to members and for a small charge for non-members.
Those interested in meeting this years’ crop of innovators in the Start-up Showcase are invited to the REAP 2020 conference on November 14th, the flagship Agri-TechE event.
[i] Data from 2018, collated by the European International Hemp Association for 2018 – kindly provided by Lorenza Romanese.