Pathogen awareness and mitigation in the cannabis industry have emerged as paramount concerns that necessitate stringent standards for the remediation of pathogens in cultivation facilities. The spectrum of threats, ranging from bacteria and viruses to yeast, mildew, mold, and fungi, underscores the complexity of safeguarding these environments. Beyond conventional disinfection methods, the industry recognizes the imperative for comprehensive solutions that extend beyond immediate control measures. Establishing robust standards for pathogen remediation is crucial not only for ensuring the quality of cannabis products but also for safeguarding the health of both consumers and industry professionals. MyCannabis had the opportunity to speak with Jim Harris, the director of business development at Safety Net America to learn more about this issue.
Can you introduce yourself briefly and the unique role that you play in Safety Net?
As a business owner for more than 30 years, I have spent a great deal of time developing unique marketing strategies that have enabled me to start and grow a number of successful businesses from IT consulting to real estate and eventually being introduced to the mobile phone industry where I became infatuated with unique products that were being developed for controlling germs and viruses on mobile devices. I was introduced to Safety Net who had a substantial presence in the healthcare industry, where based on our mutual interests, we agreed to join forces where I became the Director of Business Development. Through this partnership I was able to introduce the idea of infection control for mobile devices to Safety Net and assist with expanding their concepts and products that made up their proven Biosecurity strategy beyond the healthcare market which had been their main focus up to that point. When the situation with Covid happened, it provided an even greater opportunity to reach beyond health care into schools, businesses, transportation, churches, prisons and retail.
In my role as Director of Business Development, it is my job to promote Safety Net’s proven strategy for Biosecurity by forming partnerships with companies and individuals in a variety of markets including animal health, schools, businesses, food safety/food packaging and cannabis. Over the past 2 years, I have placed a significant focus on the cannabis industry and those companies and individuals who recognize the issues the industry is facing with pathogens and see the need for changing how things are being done. With our multi-faceted approach to Biosecurity, where we include consulting, testing, disinfection, and remediation, Safety Net was able to introduce our new and innovative technology and products that can have a dramatic impact on the industry as a whole and that have the potential to eliminate the need for pesticides and other hazardous products being used today and bring even greater value and revenues.
Can you tell us more about Safety Net's mission and how it aligns with the needs of cannabis growers in terms of infection control and prevention?
Safety Net’s mission is to be a national leader of innovative proven infection control & prevention solutions that promote safe and healthy living and working environments for our customers in every market we service. Their years of experience and suite of unique products and services that make up their Enhanced Biosecurity Program provide proven results in preventing the spread of pathogens in a variety of industries. Safety Net’s proven Enhanced Biosecurity Program was developed from collaboration with independent experts in infectious disease and industrial hygiene with numerous studies in a variety of industries and combines evidence-based disinfection control strategies specific to each market. It is a comprehensive approach that goes beyond normal everyday disinfection practices to offer a complete prevention and treatment solution to the cannabis industry.
Pathogen awareness and mitigation is one of the most critical issues facing the cannabis Industry today. Safety Net’s Enhanced Biosecurity Program sets a new standard for remediation of pathogens in cannabis cultivation facilities such as bacterium, virus, yeast, mildew, mold and fungus and is designed to safeguard environments beyond the normal approach to disinfecting. Their complete suite of disinfection products and solutions are centered on providing long-term prevention results with a strong focus on the health implications. Safety Net’s approach reaches beyond the cultivation facilities with strategies that can improve what is happening with cannabis packaging companies as well as the post-harvest pathogen issues being seen in dispensaries.
There is no single solution or activity that can eliminate the threat of pathogens in a cultivation facility. Effective pathogen prevention stems from understanding the biology and transmission of damaging pathogens and using this information to create a comprehensive and effective Biosecurity Program with products and services that work together to minimize disease. The creation of these types of programs can be difficult given the varied biology of pathogen types and the complex nature of their interaction with the environment, but Safety Net has succeeded in bringing the best products together that are eco friendly, non-hazardous, and EPA/FDA approved. Our goal is to eliminate or minimize the use of dangerous chemicals and pesticides to protect the health and well-being of the consumers as well as the cannabis employees.
Safety Net has a suite of unique products and services. Could you provide some specific examples of how these solutions have proven effective in preventing the spread of infections within the cannabis industry?
Safety Net’s Enhanced Biosecurity Program is made up of a number of unique products that when used together and consistently for Cleaning, Disinfecting and Protecting have been proven effective in Cannabis and a number of other industries as well. The cannabis industry is one that we have been pursuing for more than 18 months, and although we have been successful in working with some cultivation facilities, we have not made as much progress as we had hoped or that is necessary. One example that was a huge success was an opportunity to use our Biotrexx 247 product in one of the largest commercial indoor cannabis cultivation facilities in Northern California that was experiencing an extreme issue with aspergillus throughout their facility. After spraying their entire facility with our Biotrexx 247 antimicrobial product, their aspergillus counts went to almost zero with a few days. They have continued to use the product and to this day they are maintaining a pathogen free environment for their plants.
We have also worked with a cultivation facility in Oregon, American Cannabis Consulting where we did a joint study with a cannabis testing company, PathogenDX. The purpose of this endeavor was to allow testing to be performed on the entire grow facility, followed by our implementing our Biosecurity products throughout their entire facility and then ending with a second round of testing. The purpose of this was to provide a before and after picture of the pathogen levels within the facility and the reduction in pathogen levels from the use of our products. Like with the California facility, the results were tremendous with pathogen levels dropping in every area of their facility as a result. Although it is ongoing at the moment, we are actively working with two companies that provide packaging products to the cannabis industry to use our antimicrobial product Biotrexx 247 as a preventive coating on all packaging products to assist with the issues that are ongoing with dispensaries where packaged products are being pulled from shelves dues to issues with mold, mildew and fungus after being packaged and sealed. These efforts will take some time to implement but once completed we expect to see a dramatic dip in the number of instances of contaminated products which will provide a great deal of value to dispensaries.
In addition to these efforts, there has been testing performed by independent testing labs specific to cannabis that show the effectiveness of our products against a wide range of microbials that are common in the cannabis industry (see attached). Finally, in order to gain more acceptance by the cannabis community and to hopefully have every aspect of the cannabis industry from cultivators, to processors, packaging companies and dispensaries to see the value in what we are bringing to the table, we in discussion with key stake holders from Colorado University and Oregon State University to do independent studies on our products as part of the work they are already doing with cannabis. Our goal is to get feedback and documented proof of the effectiveness of our products on pathogens that are being seen as an ongoing issue for everyone
With years of experience in biosecurity, what are some of the key challenges that cannabis growers commonly face in maintaining a safe and healthy working environment, and how does Safety Net address these challenges?
Within the cannabis industry, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has been established as a standard that everyone in the industry should understand and follow. Unfortunately, what we have seen is that although many are familiar with IPM, very few are following the guidelines and principles it has established. Very few if any have anything in place for things such as personnel compliance, total facility disinfection and protection, adequate HVAC for proper air flow or anything that deals with water irrigation, which is where a lot of the issues start. Unfortunately, many facilities need to allocate more resources and dollars to these efforts, but most seem to see this as a low priority until it is too late. It is challenging for cannabis cultivators because they're growing plants, and do not realize that so many variables outside the grow rooms can and do affect the quality and quantity of their yield.
Our Enhanced Biosecurity Program builds on the IPM principles and standards to provide everything needed to address all the areas and concerns of a typical grow facility. Our program is multifaceted, providing components for Facility Testing, Personnel Compliance, Surface Disinfection, Air Purification and Water Purification. In each of these areas, we provide cutting-edge products that push the boundaries of technology and provide greater efficacy than any of the common products being used today. The scope of our Enhanced Biosecurity Program includes recommendations for the type and frequency of disinfection, in addition to the areas needing to be disinfected.
Our ability to provide the proper training and education for each environment for compliance and safety taking into consideration regulatory requirements is what makes our strategy a perfect solution for any business. Pathogen mitigation does have some up-front costs, and with margins tight in the cannabis industry, investing time and money to deal with pathogens may seem frivolous or unnecessary. However, all cannabis cultivators will spend money and time on pathogens regardless so why not spend the money and do it right. The average loss to pathogens in an average cultivation facility is 15%, but major outbreaks can result in loss of harvests and precious varieties, or facility-wide shut down. According to research that has been conducted, proper Biosecurity initiatives, when implemented correctly and consistently have the potential for significant returns on the money spent on pathogen control.
In the rapidly evolving cannabis industry, what innovations or strategies does Safety Net employ to stay at the forefront of infection control and prevention solutions for consumers?
The cannabis industry is experiencing rapid growth and transformation, fueled by changing attitudes, increasing legalization, and advances in research. As we move into the future, several exciting trends and innovations are shaping the landscape of cannabis that we believe can have a huge impact on the stability and growth of the industry as a whole. Safety Net continues to work with their manufacturing partners to improve their products and find new and creative ways to use the products.
We are also becoming more involved with companies that have an eye on the future and a strong voice for the cannabis industry and working to educate them on the value of programs such as ours. As the cannabis industry continues to grow, more needs to be done to eliminate the need for pesticides and other hazardous products being used on plants today that science is proving is having some damaging effects on consumers. The products in our Enhanced Biosecurity Program are eco-friendly, non-hazardous and have the potential to eliminate all products being used on plants by simply providing an environment where pathogens are unable to infect the plants. Post-harvest cannabis infected with mold, fungus, and other forms of bacteria have been found in sealed packaged products found on shelves of dispensaries putting consumers at risk and costing owners significant time and money. Safety Net is placing tremendous resources and efforts in working with packaging companies to provide a standardized solution that will greatly improve the quality of all packaged cannabis products.
Net has introduced a product for coating all packaging products with our unique antimicrobial, and we are confident that the issues of post-harvest pathogens will be significantly reduced if not eliminated, saving dispensaries a great deal of cost by not having to remediate. There is legislation being presented regarding state policy for reusable packaging, so, the holy grail would be to lobby state governments to write laws requiring antimicrobial coatings on all packaging, reusable or otherwise.
The importance of technology in the cannabis industry is critical to improve the competitive advantage and drive strategy and growth of business and should be the common goal to help cannabis companies get organized, become more productive, and ultimately more profitable. Advancements in technology helps all parts of the supply chain in today's cannabis industry. Implementing new technology can be disruptive so the process of implementation requires strategy and planning which is the foundation of our Enhanced Biosecurity Program. We realize that as the cannabis industry continues to grow, there will continue to be those legacy companies and individuals that believe “It’s the way we have always done things” in lieu of science and technology. Unfortunately, this thought process can mean continuing to use products that are harmful to consumers. To help in our efforts to educate the industry on how to do things better, we will be providing more information to the cannabis community through videos, webinars, and free educational seminars where we can engage more directly with those who have a wealth of knowledge to share that will enable us to continue to evolve our program.
How does Safety Net collaborate with cannabis growers to tailor its solutions to their specific needs and circumstances, ensuring a safe and healthy environment for their employees and consumers?
When looking at any facility, we take a more holistic approach to pathogen control, as treatments are based on each client’s unique needs and the use of proven, environmentally safe products. There is no “one size fits all” approach to what we do but rather we take the time to perform the necessary steps to help determine the issues and discuss the best options with each client. Our approach implies a partnership with each client and working together so they can have peace of mind that their facility will be properly cleaned, disinfected, and protected against any threats. We always recommend that each client schedule a risk assessment of their facility that will examine conditions in the environment, including all surfaces as well as air, water sources and any vectors that pose a threat of contamination by pathogens.
Utilizing our years of experience in infection control and unique skills we help to identify and address the needs of the business, including identifying pathogens that pose a health threat to products, personnel, or consumers. A full facility assessment follows the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) principles and focuses on pathogen prevention and finding ways to minimize or eliminate the use of pesticides and other hazardous products. The IPM approach employs innovative solutions to successfully control what and how things happen within a facility with the least amount of impact both environmentally as well as financially. Once a determination has been made as to the existence of pathogens within a facility, it is important to implement a strategy designed for on-going control of pathogens with a combination of approaches that minimize risks to the environment, while preserving human health. The processes recommended will allow for a more proactive approach that will focus on tactics that prevent or avoid future problems rather than trying to address problems only after they occur.
The benefits to our approach will result in reduction in pathogens in a facility, reduction in the number of pesticides and other products used on plants, use of natural methods with the least harm to the environment, reduction of workers’ exposure to chemicals, minimization of water and air pollution, finding ways to save money while protecting human health. Improved health and well-being of employees and consumers and increased revenue for growers are the ultimate objectives with our Enhanced Biosecurity Program. These outcomes are strongly influenced by society and the environment in which products are grown and, in this context, the cleanliness of an environment and the health of consumers are linked in many ways.
While the over-arching benefits of a good Biosecurity program are apparent, if more attention was placed on taking a proactive approach and addressing the up-front causes of cross-contamination in a facility rather than a reactive approach where the use of harmful or hazardous pesticides and cleaners can contribute to long-term health issues, our belief is that we would see a dramatic decrease in issues across the board leading to fewer issues with testing and ultimately providing consumers with products that they can trust will not harm them. Benefits include improved safety of personnel in facilities, reduced use of hazardous/toxic products, greater efficiencies in crop yield, and cleaner, safer products that reach the hands of consumers. Moreover, a more holistic approach to Biosecurity will enable these benefits to be achieved in a manner that avoids inconsistencies, fills gaps, and prevents the creation of unnecessary barriers to trade.
Biosecurity is critical in the cannabis industry. Could you share any success stories or case studies where Safety Net's solutions have made a significant impact on the biosecurity practices of cannabis growers and the health and safety of their products and consumers?
Although the development of our Enhanced Biosecurity Program comes from our many years in healthcare, and has been implemented in numerous industries, what we have seen with each new market that we penetrate is acceptance of new approaches and new technologies takes time. It is even more apparent in the cannabis industry where so many people who have been working in and around cannabis their whole life just cannot accept the science that provides tremendous value by implementing new approaches. Commercial growers have turned to questionable practices and potentially harmful products to bolster sales and increase crop yields even when the cost of implementing a proper Biosecurity Program like ours has proven to be better and cost less. Although we have had some successes and continue to work with reputable sources to validate our Enhanced Biosecurity Program and its proven products, most of the successes with our products other than healthcare have been in other industries.
Our product manufacturers have worked for years in animal health, food processing and food packaging, and with wine growers to implement proper protocols and prove the validity of their products. Through these successes, it has become standard with our comprehensive Biosecurity Program, through direct application in real life situations (see attached materials). We realize that it will take time for the industry to buy into new ideas and methods of doing business. As the cannabis industry continues to evolve and new legislation is introduced it is our hope that it will push people into making the necessary changes, which will show more and more acceptance of what we are providing as a complete program and not just a single product.
Right now, education is key and getting people onboard with new technology and implementing the IPM approach which has been a standard for many years will help to make the cannabis industry safer. Cannabis education is critical in developing fact-based policies that will suit each state and serve the people. From our perspective, cannabis education benefits consumer empowerment, economic growth, social justice, and public safety. It promotes a thoughtful approach to policy by broadening the lenses of policymakers and creating savvier, more civically involved consumers. Our goal is to continue to be a voice to the cannabis community and work with reputable sources like you, to educate the masses on better ways of doing business that will ultimately provide safer products for consumers.
It was a great pleasure to have this interview with Jim Harris, director of business development at Safety Net. Readers wishing to learn more about Safety Net are advised to check their website.