Cannabis Interview: Dr. Jon Vaught – Co-founder and CEO of Front Range Biosciences
You’re a cannabis grower, and you have a mother plant that’s a superstar! There’s got to be something that makes it easy for you to create a high-quality genetic replica of the plant. Enter Front Range Biosciences and their CEO, Dr. Jon Vaught. We recently caught up with Dr. Vaught to ask some questions about FRB and how they work with growers. Check out his interview below!
CM: Front Range Biosciences works with a range of high-value crop growers. What is the difference between the work you do with cannabis/hemp and a crop like, say, coffee?
Dr. Vaught: Both coffee and hemp plants undergo similar processes through our Clean Stock Program to create high quality genetic replicas of a specific mother plant, but the differences in treatment ultimately comes down to the biological differences between coffee and cannabis. Coffee is a woody perennial that can live for decades while hemp is an annual plant.
In coffee we actually work from callus to produce somatic embryos which are germinated in a similar fashion to seeds before being transferred from the lab to greenhouse, where cannabis is multiplied through micropropagation before it is transferred to the greenhouse.
CM: What is the Clean Stock Program, and how does it benefit growers?
Dr. Vaught: The Clean Stock Program is a Quality System for the nursery, used to provide the highest quality and consistency to our vegetative production process for both clones and rooted cuttings as well as our parental lines we use to produce seed crops. More specifically, it used to provide pathogen-free, disease-free and pesticide-free true-to-type plant stock in the form of clones or cuttings.
The process starts with taking cuttings directly from the mother plant and processing them through a tissue culture until the stock no longer contains pathogens, pests and pesticides. The resulting plant is then multiplied in a sterile tissue culture laboratory setting, acclimated to a non-sterile environment in our greenhouses, and then shipped to growers. The Clean Stock Program provides healthier plants and crop yields and eliminates the need for potentially dangerous pesticides. Growers can maximize their production efficiency by spending less time on nursery maintenance and more time on their business operations.
CM: With new, open regulations around hemp, how do you see the industry evolving over the next 5-10 years?
Dr. Vaught: The increasing demand for hemp will reap economic, medical, agricultural and environmental benefits across the U.S. in the next decade. Hemp is a sustainable alternative to mainstream agricultural crops and can be grown successfully in a variety of different regions. Consumers often associate hemp with CBD, but hemp fibers can create biodegradable paper, clothing, construction material and even fuel. Hemp seeds and oils are a great source of plant-based protein and nutrition due to fatty acid content, amino acid content, and dietary fiber. Hemp is an incredibly versatile plant and has the potential to reengineer the agricultural industry, if consumers embrace its benefits.
CM: Once cannabis becomes federally legal (whatever that ends up looking like), will you begin working with cannabis growers? Any plans to work with growers in currently legal states?
Dr. Vaught: FRB would like to see its technology applied to all viable agricultural plants, including cannabis. Cannabis growers are currently losing millions of dollars in crop harvests every year due to poor quality plants, which could be easily prevented through the Clean Stock Program. We are already working with growers in CA to provide technology solutions for licensed nurseries.
CM: Front Range raised $8.5M this year. What plans does the company have for future expansion and growth? Anything exciting coming up?
Dr. Vaught: FRB will be reinvesting this latest round of funding back into our R&D program along with investments to increase our production capacity for 2020. We have plans to continue expanding both our hemp seed production and young plant program. We also plan to grow our product offerings through our breeding platform by creating new varieties with important traits such as disease resistance and yield improvements.