Front Range Biosciences is taking cues from traditional agriculture and operating a clean stock program for cannabis, which can help cultivators reduce loss and increase efficiency, according to CEO John Vaught.
Lafayette, Colo.-based Front Range Biosciences, now in its second year of operation, has established a clean stock nursery program that uses tissue culture to help clean up, store, mass-produce and certify plants, ensuring they are disease-free and true to type. It also has a research- and development-focused varietal breeding program. Front Range Biosciences has a 2,600-square-foot tissue culture lab and a 12,000-square-foot greenhouse, and works with hemp and marijuana cultivators, as well as coffee farmers.
“We saw a big opportunity in cannabis as a new crop and an opportunity to do something unique in agriculture, and it combines all of these different things that I’ve … been very interested in and have been important in my career—food production, human health and diagnostics, and even drug development and pharmaceuticals, so all of that intersects here with this really fun new crop in cannabis,” Vaught says.
Front Range Biosciences is not reinventing the wheel with its clean stock program, Vaught says, but rather refining programs that have existed in other crops (such as potatoes, sugarcane, hops and ornamental plants) and applying it to cannabis. Tiny pieces of plant material are chopped up in the company’s tissue culture laboratory, and the individual shoots are then turned into more plants, which are cleaned to remove bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens, as well as microscopic pests like mites and aphids. “All of those get removed during that process, so they’re getting cleaned up, if you will, and then we multiply them … and build up inventory of thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands or millions in a very small space in the laboratory,” Vaught says. “From there, we get the plants ready for production.”
The plants are also tested for pesticides, he adds. They then go through a process called acclimatization, where they leave the laboratory and enter a greenhouse or an indoor or outdoor production space in preparation for delivery to the customer.
Front Range Biosciences also conducts true-to-type testing. “We take a few plants and … flower that plant out and make sure that it has the characteristics it’s supposed to,” Vaught says. “That way, the growers can feel confident that what they’re getting … is what they say it is.” True-to-type testing can be done in a grower’s facility or in Front…