While agriculture is often overlooked as a tech and innovation-forward industry, those who work in the space understand the need for constant progress and forward thinking.
In cannabis, that sentiment and push for reimagining and improvement of existing technology and a desire for new tech that increases efficiency and safety has been even more prevalent.
Greenway recently sat down with Benjamin Bush to discuss how CerroZone, an air purification technology, could be key in revolutionizing the cannabis industry and beyond.
While the average individual may have little or no reason to get excited about air purification, cannabis operators understand better than most the importance of environmental control and air quality. For operators, environmental contaminants mean losses, expenses, and delays.
CerroZone is a groundbreaking air purification system. Rather than trapping pathogens, the technology is designed to neutralize harmful entities such as bacteria and viruses.
The system’s principle revolves around utilizing ozone’s (O3) disinfecting capabilities. The device operates by pulling in air, exposing it to ultraviolet light to turn oxygen (O2) into ozone. This ozone then eradicates any microorganisms present before undergoing a special catalyst process that reverts ozone back to oxygen, ensuring minimal ozone outflow, before being released back into the surrounding.
In July 2023, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) introduced its innovative Standard 241, aimed at controlling infectious aerosols in diverse building types, from homes and offices to schools and healthcare facilities. The landmark standard sets the bar for devices in mitigating airborne virus transmission risks like that of SARS-COV-2 and the flu. The CerroZone technology not only adheres to ASHRAE Standard 241 but even surpasses some requisites, according to Bush.
In testing, CerroZone achieved an impressive reduction of over 99.99% in the COVID-19 virus in a mere 1.2 seconds. While that achievement alone means increased health and safety for workers, the most exciting implications of the CerroZone technology fro cannabis operators come from its ability to mitigate environmental contaminants and kill mold.
“One of the things that you have in the cannabis space is Aspergillus,” Bush explained. “It can be in the air, it gets on the plants and so on, it can really harm the crops. We have done a study where we show that we can eliminate 99.99% of this in 20 minutes. Nobody else can do that. Most of the people out there that are trying to eliminate mold, are using filters. The filters are a capture technology, we’re basically a kill technology,” Bush continued. “We’re going to destroy the mold, you’re not going to have to pull filters out that have all this mold on it. The other technology that people like to use is UV does nothing to mold. The most effective thing for mold, such as Aspergillus, is ozone.”
Mold, and Aspergillus in particular are so detrimental to the cannabis industry that 7 states have issued recalls for mold in the calendar 2023 alone. Since 2020, that number jumps to 11, roughly a quarter of the states with legal marijuana programs in the US. For a cannabis business, a recall can have a ripple effect that is felt throughout the business for years. Costs, losses, and remediation stack up quickly, but the erosion of consumer confidence can have long-lasting impacts that are felt well beyond the initial wave.
“The articles that are written, show that ozone is most effective, except you can’t have people in the room. So we’ve developed a device where the ozone is internal in the device.”
Currently, CerroZone comes in three sizes, an in-ceiling offering, a mini, and a mobile size; with price points ranging from $3500 to $10,000.
“The thing that’s really nice about this technology is that we can scale this, we could build a device that goes into a grow facility that could move 1000 cubic feet per minute to 2000 cubic feet per minute and basically size it for a facility instead of having to put in 10 or 15 or 20 different devices,” Bush said.
That scalability and customization is something that makes CerroZone an intriguing investment for both new and existing operators.
While CerroZone is designed, in its essence, to be a precautionary measure, the reality is that many existing facilities are waging on ongoing war with environmental contamination on a daily basis. CerroZone offers the ability to efficiently and effectively remediate mold and other contaminants in real-time, while the lead time for custom options looks to be between 45 and 90 days currently.
As with any new technology, there is a period of hesitation and learning associated with it. In the case of CerroZone, one focus has been on educating about the technology and how it works to alleviate concerns over the use of ozone. There is an alarmist effect when a company mentions something in a technology or product that we generally think of as unsafe for us. For Bush and the team at CerroZone, education is the key.
“We have what’s called an FDA 510(k) Class II medical device clearance. That’s basically saying that this device can be used around people,” Bush said.
CerroZone mobile units comply also with Intertek’s “Zero Ozone” standard and the standards set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). CerroZone also meets the ozone emission guidelines set forth by agencies such as the EPA and OSHA.
“What we’re showing here is that not only are we removing, you know, the ozone that we generate, but we’re actually removing it from from from the air. We’re getting the ambient ozone out. The stuff that’s coming out is like point 00008 parts per million, which equates to, you know, point eight parts per billion. So we’re almost at zero parts per billion coming out of these devices,” Bush explained.
CerroZone is already working within Missouri cannabis operations and the initial results have been beyond impressive. The technology not only eliminates and kills pathogens that are harmful to plants and staff, but CerroZone serves as an effective odor control tool for cannabis facilities.
“The other thing that we get rid of is we get rid of Volatile Organic Compound odors. If there are any odors in a room, we’re going to eliminate those odors too, by running them through through the device. So let’s say you’re venting out this cannabis smell to local communities, we’re going to be able to eliminate that also. A good analogy to think about is when you’re in a thunderstorm, and that smell that you smell is ozone. That’s basically what’s going on inside of the device. Any air that’s going through is basically being sanitized like it is in nature,” Bush said.
For cannabis operators, the implications of real-time environmental sterilization and control, and the ability to mitigate and prevent outbreaks could be lifesaving for a business. Erasing the cost of remediation, creating a safe environment for plant growth, and essentially eliminating the risk of most plant contamination could equate to hundreds of hours of labor and a substantial decrease in loss of plant material.
For more information about CerroZone you can visit www.cerrozone.com.