All posts by Uttara Choudhury

TruTrace Technologies protects intellectual property to send counterfeiters packing

Product validation is more important to the cannabis industry than you might think 

Instagram is a hotbed for selling knockoff fashion and cannabis, from fake Chanel bags to phony Gucci slides to counterfeit vapes, cannabis oils and edibles.

Loudpack Farms spent US$2.5 million on new packaging and hardware just to distinguish its award-winning Kingpen cannabis vapes from fakes. After Kingpen won 13 prizes, the company said knockoffs began proliferating at unlicensed dispensaries across California.

In a particularly brazen move, a counterfeiter went to cannabis cultivator THC Designs’ website, downloaded data that showed how its marijuana had fared on state certification tests, then stuck the lab results on the side of fake products to assert authenticity.

Fortunately for the legitimate cannabis industry, help is finally at hand. TruTrace Technologies (CSE:TTT) has developed the first blockchain-secured platform to track intellectual property for cannabis. The company provides DNA-based cannabis product validation and helps with intellectual property protection and product guarantees for patients and customers.

“It’s a combination of science, enterprise software, and blockchain technology,” says TruTrace Chief Executive Officer Robert Galarza. “By focusing on granular genetic, chemical and contaminant data, as well as motion and movement information and then merging that into a blockchain we are able to provide real-time data on each product being purchased.”

Galarza comes across as a veritable Renaissance man compared to most pinstriped CEOs. His background spans roles as a corporate attorney, movie producer, advertising executive, and entertainment lawyer. He’s even managed professional fighters and co-founded the enterprise technology company Spark Digital Technologies.

Channeling the power of blockchain
With TruTrace, Galarza now channels the power of blockchain to enhance trust and fix the grim realities of corrupted supply chains in the medical cannabis industry.

In a nutshell, TruTrace combines the power of big data with the security of blockchain to provide strain identification, registration and verification for cannabis at scale.

The firm’s immutable, cryptographically secure technology is the brainchild of Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Tommy Stephenson, who developed enterprise software platforms over two decades for companies such as Microsoft and Mercedes Benz.

Galarza says his favourite part of the job is traveling to Seattle to visit the development centre, which has “a Disney feel” to it. The engineers exude an “if we can dream it, we can build it” philosophy, he says.

The dream team in Seattle
“Tommy’s passion and genius percolates into the team. At our core, we are data nerds who love cannabis and understand the issues around moving this product around the world. When blockchain came on our radar, we knew it could be a powerful tool in data management,” says Galarza.

“Combining this with the immutable recording nature of blockchain also made it attractive as a protection method for intellectual property and creating a permanent lineage for cannabis strains.”

The Seattle team’s goal has been to build a framework to help licensed cannabis producers and micro-cultivators easily and inexpensively move their products through the mandatory testing process. TruTrace places that test data on the blockchain for its own protection and that of the company’s intellectual property.

In this way, TruTrace’s StrainSecure cannabis tracking platform establishes an accurate, single-source, validated, and permanent account for cannabis strains from seed source to market. A cannabis strain’s genetics are stored into an immutable ledger and information is added during each processing stage.

TruTrace’s seed-to-sale tracking technology
In short, TruTrace’s seed-to-sale tracking tackles two pain points in the cannabis industry: it modernizes the inventory tracking system and provides customers with details about a product’s lab test results and cultivar.

It’s been a busy year for TruTrace, which listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange in June. The company expects momentum to continue into the second half of 2019 driven by its medical cannabis pilot program with national Canadian pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart.

“Our biggest inflection point has been the relationship with Shoppers Drug Mart and Loblaws. I’m not sure everyone fully grasps how much it means to have a company of their size, history, and reputation in the medical cannabis industry,” says Galarza.

Pilot program with Shoppers Drug Market
“Working alongside Shoppers changes the conversation about what our technology could mean for the industry because we are focusing on building a bridge between medical cannabis and the traditional medical industry – that’s a bigger divide than people like to admit. If we can help make cannabis a customary part of medical treatment, it could impact the trajectory of the industry in a positive way.”

In June, TruTrace announced a milestone deal with Shoppers Drug Mart for a pilot program to use its StrainSecure technology as a central hub for identity management, asset tracking, validation, and product authentication.

Licensed producers are also using TruTrace, in part to assure stakeholders that the medical cannabis industry is serious about offering a verified, standardized cannabis treatment option.

Harvest One Cannabis joined TruTrace’s master genome strain and clone registration program in February to verify its United Greeneries cannabis strains, becoming one of StrainSecure’s early adopters. The company said it turned to the platform so patients could enjoy an increased level of confidence in the consumption of its Satipharm branded cannabis sold through Shoppers.

Similarly, well-known medical cannabis producer WeedMD is a big believer. The Ontario-based company saw 40 of its cannabis strains undergo validation as part of the first phase of its pilot program with TruTrace.

Working with about 10 major producers
“We are working with about 10 major producers, with several others getting finalized at the moment. Although our focus has been in Canada throughout year one, we’re seeing some exciting momentum in South America and the US as well,” says Galarza.

In another recent move, TruTrace applied StrainSecure technology to cannabis water company NXT Water by fixing QR codes on its just-launched AKESO hemp-derived fitness water. A customer can now scan the QR code to learn instantly about the fitness water’s test results.

“This relationship was born out of a blind test they performed on several leading CBD water products in the US market. They found most of the products fell well below the advertised amount of CBD, with some having none at all,” says Galarza.

“Alternatively, the AKESO product was consistently testing out at around 12 milligrams of broad-spectrum CBD per bottle and NXT wanted to find a way to communicate this to their customers. They turned to TruTrace and started using the StrainSecure platform.”

Strong technology adoption
TruTrace has spent a lot of time, effort, and money perfecting its software. Now that the technology comprehensively solves a very real problem, long-time supporters are experiencing the moment they knew eventually had to come.

“The hallmark for an innovative technology company is adoption at various levels of industry. A great idea without customers unfortunately will remain nothing more than an idea that never panned out,” points out Galarza.

“We believe TruTrace has achieved this in its young history. From Shoppers Drug Mart and Deloitte, to WeedMD and NXT Water, we’ve found great adoption at many levels. We believe that sets us up for long-term success.”

As adoption grows with each new user, TruTrace further stakes its claim as a technology game-changer for the cannabis industry.

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on September 13, 2019 and featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about TruTrace Technologies at https://trutrace.co/.

Go Cobalt: Battery metals the target with promising projects in the Yukon and Quebec

It was serendipity that led Go Cobalt Mining Corp CEO Scott Sheldon to the exploration company’s flagship Monster property in Yukon, Canada’s Wild West which is seeing a modern-day minerals-rush. The Monster property is located 80 km north of Dawson City, in Yukon.

“In 2011, I ran into a friend from university who had been living in the Yukon since graduating,” said Go Cobalt CEO Scott Sheldon. “My dad and I had recently discussed a collaboration and took this opportunity to move into a gold play together leveraging some great Yukon contacts.”

As the material needs of the world’s seven billion people continue to grow, there has been a rush to exploit the Yukon’s exceptionally rich resources — gold, zinc, cobalt, and more.

As a junior mineral exploration company, Go Cobalt is focused on copper, gold and cobalt projects in Canada. Yukon’s industry-friendly regulations attracted the battery metals company which has been in the resource rich region since 2011.

Go Cobalt is on the right track as the fundamentals supporting the cobalt sector such as the electric vehicle and energy storage booms continue to grow stronger.

Sheldon has mining in his veins. His father Don Sheldon raised capital for junior resource companies for nearly three decades.

“I started working in the industry when I was 16 years old up in the Golden Triangle of northern British Columbia,” said Sheldon. “I continued to do this every summer through university to help pay for my degree” added Sheldon, who graduated from Dalhousie University in Halifax.

The Monster advantage

Interest in Yukon began in the 19th century when gold prospectors pushed northwards and plied creeks with picks, pans and shovels. Today, the Yukon in the northwestern wilderness of Canada is considered one of the best mining jurisdictions in the world.

Co Cobalt’s Monster property in the Yukon is a copper, cobalt, gold prospect covering 63 square kilometers of the Ogilvie Mountains in the Dawson Mining District. The company believes its Monster project represents a large, prospective opportunity because it lies on the Wernecke Breccia, a region of the Yukon known to host iron oxide copper gold (IOCG) style minerology.

“Our VP of exploration even wrote his thesis on comparing the Wernecke region of the Yukon to similar hydrothermal deposits in Australia. Some of the biggest copper mines in the world carry an IOCG signature,” said Sheldon. “Olympic Dam and Candelaria are two examples.”

The tremendous size, relatively simple metallurgy and relatively high grade of IOCG deposits can produce extremely profitable mines. The Monster has zones of elevated copper and cobalt concentrations across the entire 19 km length of the property. The Monster’s IOCG mineralization is hosted within and directly adjacent to the Wernecke Breccia.

“Major iron ore copper gold deposit trends have recently been recognized for hosting cobalt and offer high-tonnage potential,” said Sheldon.

Go Cobalt now covers 6,000 hectares of the Wernecke Breccia in the northern Wernecke Breccia belt and has high grade copper (over 3%) and cobalt (over 9%) on the property.

“There is also anomalous gold and silver. Traditionally IOCG deposits will be polymetallic and offer a range of minerals,” explained Sheldon.

Drilling in 2020

Go Cobalt has started work on the Monster using satellite imagery and roped in geoscientist Rodrigo Diaz, an expert in IOCGs and remote spectral geology, for optimizing the mineral exploration process.

The CEO said Go Cobalt had over $300,000 budgeted to spend on the property this year “to get it drill ready for 2020.”

“We are also redoing some of the historic gravity surveys using updated elevation models,” said Sheldon. “We expect to extensively expand the gravity survey this summer. In addition, we are planning a site wide electromagnetic survey and continued mapping to follow up on historic zones of interest.”

Go Cobalt doesn’t require additional environment permits at this point in its exploration program.

“We have had discussions with Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation about our work on their traditional territory and will continue to keep them notified as we move forward,” said Sheldon. “The old road to the property is currently in disrepair and would need a special permit.”

The company will use one of the two air strips within 10 km of the property to stage its 2019 program. Go Cobalt says it has adequate funds for the mining season.

“We have about $1 million in the bank. Half of that is flow through funds to be spent this season. We also have about $1.8 million from outstanding warrants that are all ‘in the money’, said Sheldon.

Barachois Vanadium project

Some miners have really concentrated positions because they are focused on the short term. However, Go Cobalt is aware a complete absence of diversification can be painful for performance. Therefore, it also has a Barachois project, a sediment hosted vanadium-selenium-silver-lead-zinc prospect in the Gaspe area of Quebec.

The project covers 1,801 hectares where carboniferous aged sediments have been shown to host sedimentary vanadium-zinc-lead mineralization.

The latest, greatest utility-scale battery storage technology to emerge on the commercial market is the vanadium redox battery, also known as the vanadium flow battery. V-flow batteries are nonflammable, compact, reusable over semi-infinite cycles, discharge 100% of the stored energy and do not degrade for more than 20 years. These batteries use the multiple valence states of just vanadium to store and release charges.

“Barrachois helps us add another excellent battery metal in a good mining province. We are excited to further that project this summer,’ said Sheldon. “It is the polar opposite to the Monster. It has road access and is relatively flat topography.”

Investment case

Go Cobalt is leveraging the global shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy by banking on a basket of battery metal projects. Global demand for cobalt, nickel and silvery-grey, malleable vanadium has skyrocketed in recent months with high demand from electric car and laptop makers.

“We are giving our investors exposure to a variety of battery metal projects,” said Sheldon. “Our flagship in the Yukon is a polymetallic style prospect. It has high grade surface mineralization for both copper and cobalt.  Also, we have a Vanadium project in Quebec, and we are actively searching for a Nickel project in Quebec as well.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on February 15, 2019 and featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Go Cobalt Mining Corp. at http://www.gocobalt.ca/.

Pacific Rim Cobalt: Cobalt and nickel covered with one prized Indonesian asset

Cobalt and nickel covered with one prized Indonesian asset

Energy storage is a technology crucial to our future, and for good reason. Affordable storage is “the missing link” between intermittent renewable power, such as solar and wind, and 24/7 reliability, according to McKinsey and Company.

Ranjeet Sundher, Chief Executive Officer of Pacific Rim Cobalt (CNSX:BOLT; OTCMKTS:PCRCF), which is developing a cobalt asset in Indonesia, says a major form of energy storage includes lithium-ion batteries, and one of the metals they rely on heavily is cobalt.

“Global demand for renewable power is fueling a massive shift from traditional energy supply chain economics, and the most widely used power source for portable applications is cobalt-reliant lithium-ion batteries,” said Sundher.

“Pacific Rim leverages the global shift to renewable energy and the electric vehicle revolution by capitalizing on two elements: cobalt and nickel. Cobalt and nickel are both essential to lithium-ion batteries.”

The mining industry veteran says lithium-ion batteries can be used to smooth the flow of power. They can be integrated into electricity systems so that if a main source of power fails, it provides a backup, improving reliability.

Despite Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk tweeting in July that he wants cobalt out of his next-generation batteries, cutting the base metal can create safety and performance issues. For now, the supremacy of cobalt in the growing electric car market is unassailable.

“Cobalt is necessary for any lithium-ion battery with a high energy density. Essentially, any high-performance battery requires cobalt. As most of these batteries are for vehicles and phones, performance is a necessity. Therefore, you cannot get rid of cobalt,” said Sundher.

Sundher, who previously founded Indogold Exploration, a Jakarta-based mining service firm, is creating a carpe diem moment for Pacific Rim Cobalt by developing a cobalt and nickel asset in Indonesia. The Cyclops Cobalt-Nickel Project, recently renamed for its proximity to the Cyclops mountain range, is situated on the north coast of Papua Province. The project covers 5,000 hectares with nine prospects, five of them drill-tested with known cobalt-nickel mineralization.

Nearly 66% of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country torn by a long-running civil war. This turmoil means that mining cobalt is often dangerous and subject to supply disruptions that can result in spiraling prices. Some companies call the cobalt mined in the Congo the “blood diamond of batteries” owing to harsh mining conditions and use of child labour.

In contrast, Pacific Rim Cobalt’s Cyclops Project has excellent logistics and infrastructure. Located 15 kilometres from the Sentani Airport, the project’s tidewater location offers strategic access to China, the largest battery metals market in the world.

“We have a solid growth story in the right place,” said Sundher. “We are developing our flagship cobalt asset in Indonesia. We were fortunate to pick an asset that already had a tremendous amount of work done on it making it much easier to leverage. There have been over 850 drill holes done on our property, which allows us to talk to potential offtake partners much earlier than we normally would.”

The Canadian company has a production permit, environmental permit and sealed road access 12 months of the year to the project. “This means we can work on development without any seasonal delays,” said Sundher.  “We are currently beginning to drill 150 holes totaling 5,000 metres on our Cyclops Project and aim to make our historic estimate of 37 million metric tons at 0.11% cobalt compliant.”

The goal of the program is to establish a maiden compliant resource on the project as well as to identify target locations for extraction of mini bulk samples required for metallurgical and process testing.

With a historic estimate of 37 million metric tons grading 0.11% cobalt and 1.31% nickel at a 0.8% nickel cut-off grade, Cyclops contains significant cobalt and nickel mineralization as well as excellent infrastructure for year-round development activities.

Sundher makes clear that China is a focus of the company’s strategy for eventual supply.  “A key factor and strength of our development going forward is our proximity to China. Indonesia faces China. China is a big investor into Indonesia and they are a big consumer of cobalt,” said Sundher.

Indeed, China’s fast-growing battery industry accounts for 80% of cobalt usage. Beijing is locking down supply chains and gobbling up as much cobalt as it can.

Pacific Rim Cobalt has signed a preliminary offtake agreement with Beijing Easpring Material Technology Co. to purchase nickel sulphate and cobalt sulphate from the Cyclops project for five years from the start of commercial production. 

“This is a major milestone for us. Beijing Easpring supplies five of the world’s top six battery manufacturers. They are incredibly sophisticated and dedicated to the electric revolution. Our business model is China-facing,” said Sundher.

It’s no secret that global battery makers have been searching for ways to reduce cobalt in their batteries to cut costs.  Next year, China’s largest lithium-ion battery maker, Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd., plans to begin producing next-generation nickel-rich batteries, called NCM 811, which are cheaper to make and have longer lifespans.

Pacific Rim Cobalt is positioned to roll with these changes in battery composition, though, as it has both cobalt and nickel in its arsenal.

“The NCM 811 chemistry does reduce the amount of cobalt, but it replaces it with nickel. We are a cobalt and nickel company, so the switch does not affect us as much as other companies,” said Sundher.

“Our preliminary offtake partner, Beijing Easpring, is one of the leaders of 811 chemistry, and it is not anticipated to be the leading battery chemistry for a number of years,” said Sundher.

“It’s Day 1 in our company and I firmly believe that any investor who is interested in cobalt and understands the cobalt supply chain should have a close look at what we are doing.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on September 10, 2018 and featured in The Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Pacific Rim Cobalt at https://pacificrimcobalt.com/ and on the CSE website at https://thecse.com/en/listings/mining/pacific-rim-cobalt-corp.