Cannabis Equipment News is an interview series with growers, processors, manufacturers, distributors and other professionals who work within the legal cannabis industry. We provide answers to the challenges cannabis professionals face every day and discuss the industry as it continues to develop.
Dave Nestoff: Cannabis Compliance is a Labor-Intensive Burden for Operators
This week, Dave Nestoff, director of product and engineering at Simplifya, discusses how he landed at a cannabis compliance software company after two very different careers — and why he loves working for startups.
Nestoff is a self-described renaissance man, and the nature of startups allowed him to wear many hats during his career. At Simplifya, he not only works on software engineering, but he also has a chance to flex writing skills cultivated during stints as a journalist and teacher.
Software development wasn't the first choice for Nestoff. A few years ago, he was working at a startup marketing firm that exposed him to the business' database and front-end side. It forced him to rethink his career, and he reinvented himself at a development boot camp in Chicago. Simplifya recruited him out of the boot camp because he had a unique perspective as a developer coming from a different career, rather than a green computer science major right out of school.
Simplifya is a software as a service (SaaS) company that helps cannabis operators remain compliant with state and local regulations as well as internal best practices. The platform provides self-auditing and assessment software in four different tools:
Self Audits: Audits tailored to each business to identify and remedy areas of non-compliance. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): Update and track internal SOPs. Smart Cabinet: A document storage and organization tool. License Tracker: Provides reminders for renewals and stores all relevant documentation needed to maintain a license. Nestoff says Simplifya is an out-of-the-box tool used by cultivators, operators and other cannabis businesses to remain compliant. It seems simple, but the software helps ensure that companies don't lose their licenses and can maintain their businesses using best practices.
Simplifya has been in business for five years and now has more than 1,000 locations. Its customers range from small, mom-and-pop shops to large multi-state operators and ancillary companies.
Documentation and compliance are more labor-intensive in the cannabis industry, and Simplifya is designed to help companies do more with smaller compliance teams.
Nestoff says that cannabis operators can help protect their companies by doing things right from an operational standpoint from the outset. The company will be better positioned when regulators start visiting the facility, particularly in states that have recently come online with legalization.
Simplifya's audits are simple and straightforward, with a series of yes or no questions catered specifically to each operator and the licenses they hold. It takes state and local regulations and transforms them to be relevant and digestible to each operator.
The company has customers in 21 states spanning cultivation, distribution, manufacturing and more. But, as Nestoff says, every operator runs the business in a unique way, which is why it is essential for Simplifya to be configurable to each operator.
Building a Better Cannabis Facility Like Lego Bricks
This week, Tim Vrieling and David Wolf, founders of Greenbox Builders, discuss how their pre-engineered, pre-designed and pre-specified facilities can get cannabis operators up and running faster by cutting out 85% of the design and development time.
In June, Vrieling and Wolf founded Greenbox to solve a common problem in the cannabis industry: facility construction. The pair had experience building in technical environments, working on everything from medical device and pharmaceutical labs to test kitchens and science buildings at universities.
Recently, Vrieling experienced an uptick in interest from cannabis businesses at Integrate Lab Builders Inc., an architectural design firm that he has run for the better part of five years in Southern California. He found that the design and build process in the cannabis industry was taking much longer than other markets for myriad reasons.
For example, municipalities were making it more difficult to get plans approved for conditional use permits or receive building permits. The requirements are more challenging, so Vrieling and Wolf came up with an idea to pre-package structures with a complete set of plans that are already engineered — with drawings completed and typical code issues addressed. On average, Vrieling says that it could take nine months from when a cannabis operator starts with a municipality to when construction could begin. With his new process, he says clients could be in front of the planning commission within 45 days.
Greenbox builds pre-engineered, pre-designed and pre-specified Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) facilities made of insulated concrete form structures. The company’s initial offering includes 3,360-square-foot and 4,500-square-foot analytical and extraction labs. According to Wolf, the structures are formed much like building a facility out of Lego bricks. Eventually, the company hopes to offer cultivation facilities and edibles kitchens as well.
According to Vrieling, the value of the system lies in taking months, or even years, off the timeline to get facilities up and operational. Startup cannabis companies often fail to get off the ground because of time lost during construction that quickly eats into startup capital. Vrieling said the downtime is usually more costly than the entire facility, and the lost opportunities and business can be devastating.
New customers have previously come to the company in the middle of the process looking for help retrofitting an old facility. Although they take on that work, Vrieling said the value is building a new facility from the ground up, so clients can avoid the many pitfalls between cities and retrofit projects.
While municipalities can cause hiccups during the process, the demands for the structure are similar to those in other industries: control over cross-contamination, adulteration, and odor controls, among others.
The builders stressed the importance of keeping it simple. Timeliness is critical, so they cut out as much of the design process as possible. The buildings are about 85% complete before the project begins, and then each is tweaked to suit individual municipalities and climates.
Although the company is new, Wolf and Vrieling have one new structure under contract in Oklahoma and are currently negotiating with two other cannabis companies in the U.S. The company started with analytics testing and extraction facilities because they found a significant disconnect between the number of growing and processing facilities in the U.S. compared to the number of testing facilities.
The company is green in more than just the name, but the staff of savvy architectural veterans hope to set it up for success in the fast-paced cannabis industry.
Matt Cohen: Cracking the Premium Cannabis Cocktail Code
This week, Matt Cohen, founder of Lively Spirits, discusses his transformation from a college student activist to an entrepreneur trying to crack the premium cannabis cocktail code.
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Trent Woloveck: Automation Equipment Isn’t There Yet
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This week, Trent Woloveck, chief commercial director at Jushi Holdings, discusses his evolution from a finance guy who dabbled in product development to a leader of a multi-state cannabis operator.
llease make sure to like, subscribe and share the podcast. You could also help us out a lot by giving the podcast a positive review on Apple podcast or whatever platform you use. Finally, to email the podcast or suggest a potential guest, you can reach David Mantey at David @cannabisequipmentnews.com with “Email the Podcast” in the subject line.
Aaron Silverstein: A Leading Expert in Cannabis-Infused Wine
This week, Aaron Silverstein, vice president of production and business development at the House of Saka, discusses how he became one of the world's leading experts on cannabis-infused wine by accident.
Jim Higdon: Exposing Shady CBD Practices
This week, Jim Higdon discusses his evolution from journalist and author to co-founder and chief communications officer of Cornbread Hemp, a company dedicated to manufacturing USDA organic-certified, whole-flower CBD products.