Tag Archives: Uttara Choudhury

Verano Holdings: A 14-state footprint and coveted brands set this Chicago-based cannabis company apart

Verano Holdings (CSE:VRNO) Chief Executive Officer George Archos has connected the dots of opportunity to create one of the biggest cannabis companies in the US. Based in Chicago, the vertically integrated, multi-state operator was valued at around $3 billion when it went public in February of this year. 

The 42-year-old serial entrepreneur, who also co-founded the Wildberry Pancakes & Café chain, was inspired to start Verano after seeing the potential of medical cannabis.

“I looked at the medical marijuana opportunity that came up in my home state of Illinois and saw it was a strong challenge. I also saw that it offered the benefit of helping people. I had an uncle that had multiple sclerosis and I think that he could have benefited from it when he was suffering,” says Archos.

“We applied for a license in 2014 and were selling product a year later. We started off small with less than 10 employees and we scaled over the years as the markets grew.”

From its roots in Chicago, Verano has evolved into a broad-based powerhouse with a 14-state footprint. It has cultivation, production and dispensary licenses across several states, lending it multiple revenue streams.

Verano has 28 retail locations under the Zen Leaf banner and 50 additional operating dispensaries, with plans to open around 10 more this year. It also has 340 active dispensary wholesale partnerships.

Verano was doing well before the pandemic and its strong growth shows no sign of slowing down. For the first quarter ended March 31, Verano revenue soared 117% to US$143.3 million compared to the first quarter a year earlier.

“Verano has massive upside over the next few years and for the long term as a cannabis green wave continues to sweep across the country,” says Archos. 

“We are seeing more daily-use consumers, besides more and more medical patients coming online every single day. Sales have been strong this year and we anticipate good sales in the back half of the year as well.”

The Verano boss chalks up being able to execute well on mergers and acquisitions to going public earlier this year. 

“Going public has given us access to capital, which has allowed us to transact on the M&A front. We have built on some very strong acquisitions to the Verano platform, which has given us access to markets like Florida, Arizona and Pennsylvania,” says Archos. 

“It’s really helped us deepen our footprint and bring some high-quality operators to the Verano family.”

In February, Verano closed a key merger with Florida-based Alternative Medical Enterprises that gave it access to 34 active retail locations in Florida, with more planned by the end of 2021, and one retail location in Phoenix. It also boosted the company’s cultivation facilities to 220,000 square feet in Florida and 30,000 square feet in Arizona, with expansion of an additional 60,000 square feet currently underway.

The company has also engaged in significant M&A activity in Florida, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio, increasing assets such as dispensary locations and grower/processor sites.

Verano has completed the acquisitions of Territory Dispensary, Emerald Dispensary and The Local Joint, giving the company the third-largest retail footprint in Arizona, with six active storefronts and two cultivation facilities. 

Verano has also expanded its dispensary footprint through M&A with TerraVida in the Philadelphia metropolitan area and acquired three dispensaries in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area through the Healing Center.  

“M&A has been a part of our story and we will continue down that path when we find assets and people that make sense for Verano. We like to transact so we do see more M&A in our future,” says Archos

“We are well funded for expansion of M&A activities so we’re in a very good position.”

Verano had $111.6 million in cash and equivalents as of March 31, and recently completed a $100 million upsizing of its credit facility to $130 million, for total liquidity of roughly $241.6 million.

“Given both its strong cash position, and strong free cash generation, the company is well positioned to fund both organic (supported by in excess of $100 million in CAPEX in 2021) and acquisition driven growth,” said ATB Capital Markets. 

Significantly, Verano’s cash flow from operations for the first quarter was $42 million, and free cash flow totaled $4 million.

Through its 10 cultivation and production facilities, Verano produces a suite of artisanal cannabis products sold under its portfolio of brands: Avexia, Verano, Encore and MÜV. These are positioned as premium brands, so the company enjoys premium pricing and higher margins.

“When Verano started off, we positioned ourselves as a premium producer, that’s just how we built our facilities,” says Archos.

“That’s how we marketed our products, and it goes into the hand trimming and level of detail that we put into every jar, and every product that we put onto the shelves.” 

By blending cannabinoids (THC and CBD), the firm’s Avexia Medical Cannabis brand has a portfolio of balms and lotions for pain relief, an Epsom salt soak, and a line of micro-dose tablets. Separately, the Verano brand has handy “swift lift” pre-rolls, refined vapes, and concentrates, while Encore Edibles produces handcrafted chocolates, mints, gummies, hard candies and caramels.

Meanwhile, MÜV has received multiple patents for its award-winning products that provide high-quality, reliable medical cannabis for patients.  

“We consistently add cultivation as markets scale, so we are constantly under construction in almost every market, adding flower capacity and manufacturing capacity because every market is growing,” says Archos.

“Verano sometimes is as much of a construction company as we are a cannabis company.”

Verano has opened three Zen Leaf dispensaries in New Jersey, where the expansion of its 120,000 square feet cultivation facility is underway in anticipation of the onset of adult-use sales in the state.

“Being profitable and cash flow positive was important to us, so we have been very good stewards of our capital,” Archos concludes. “We have deployed funds where we thought we could get the quickest return on investment.”

This story was featured in the Canadian Securities Exchange magazine.

Learn more about Verano Holdings at https://verano.com/

Bee Vectoring Technologies International: Delivering patented organic pesticides with some help from the hive

Swarms of mechanical drones are used in modern agriculture, but Bee Vectoring Technologies International (CSE:BEE) is wonderfully old school. The Ontario-based agritech company has successfully drafted some of nature’s little helpers – an army of commercially reared bees – to deliver organic pesticides to crops.

The company’s natural precision agriculture system relies on bees carrying BVT’s patented biological fungicide – Vectorite with CR-7 – from commercial hives to crops. The breakthrough is getting a lot of attention, as it could help farmers reduce, or even eliminate, the need for chemical spraying.

The intellectual property and creativity driving BVT’s business has been in development for nearly two decades, but it’s since 2016 that the company has really ramped up testing and field trials. Currently, BVT has over 65 patents and 35 patents pending in agriculture-dominant countries around the world.

With its patent-rich endeavour, BVT is now eyeing the global US$240 billion crop protection and fertilizer market with its targeted pest and disease management solutions. 

But how does it all work? 

Its genius is its simplicity. Inside the hive, bumblebees or honeybees walk through a tiny tray, picking up Vectorite with CR-7 powder on their legs as they exit their hives to travel out into the fields. The Vectorite carries a refined form of Clonostachys rosea (CR-7), a fungus that feeds on other types of fungi that damage crops. The powder naturally drops on plants’ blooms as the bees fly around the field pollinating the crop. 

The BVT trays are changed during the bloom period and accurately dispense portions of Vectorite with CR-7 that are just the right size for a bee to carry. The company says “multiple biocontrols” can be added to each tray at the same time in a process called stacking. 

“BVT is commercializing a system to harness the natural pollination process of bees to deliver safe, biological plant-treatment products to crops to help them fight pests and diseases, producing higher yields for farmers while reducing the use of synthetic chemical pesticides,” says Bee Vectoring Technologies Chief Executive Officer Ashish Malik.  

“We have demonstrated that yield increases of as much as 30%, and reductions in chemical fungicides of up to 98%, are possible with our unique and patented natural precision agriculture technology.”

When absorbed, BVT’s Vectorite with CR-7 enables a plant to block disease such as botrytis (grey mould) in strawberries, which is the most widespread strawberry disease in California. According to some estimates, BVT’s solution saves strawberry farmers over $4,000 per acre.

Bees still contribute to one-third of the food we consume by pollinating crops. “There are about 3 million beehive colonies that are used in commercial agriculture today, quite a staggering number when you further consider that each beehive can contain 20,000 bees,” says Malik, an engineer with an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.

In August 2019, BVT became the only company to have US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval for a bee-delivered fungicide. The company also received a “residue tolerance exemption” from the EPA, which confirms that products with CR-7 are safe for human consumption. Unlike many chemical pesticides, there is no requirement to test crops for residual CR-7.

“This underscores the safety of CR-7 for human consumption. It also gives growers an economic advantage since they don’t run the risk of their crop being rejected,” says Malik.

The Canadian company has an ambitious US blueprint, so it’s not surprising that Malik resides in Davis, California, near the US agricultural research nerve centre of Sacramento.

“Davis is home to the University of California, Davis, which is one of the leading universities in agricultural sciences worldwide, and the greater Sacramento area is one of the larger innovation hubs for agritech companies,” says Malik. “It is a great location from which to build out our US footprint. We have opportunities across the US – from the Southeast, to the Pacific Northwest, California, Michigan, New Jersey, New England and the Midwest.”

BVT sees its biotech as a solution for berry, almond, stone fruit, tomato and pepper growers. In fact, in its first growing season selling commercially in the US, it has garnered customers from growing regions that cover over 80% of US blueberry acreage. 

“Currently, we are focusing on the berry crops. Blueberry growers in the Southeast represented about 75% of our invoiced sales in 2020,” says Malik. The BVT boss says that as he looks to the 2021 season, he sees continued growth in the Southeast and new revenue in Michigan and the Pacific Northwest from berry growers. 

“From this base we will expand onto additional crops such as tree fruits and nuts (stone fruit, almonds), and indoor vegetables (tomatoes, peppers) in the medium to longer term,” says Malik. 

California requires its own approval beyond the EPA process and represents the largest market opportunity for BVT, with 1.4 million acres of almond farms pollinated by bees. “We are in the final stages of the regulatory approval process in California and Switzerland. In addition, we have started the process for Mexico,” says Malik.

BVT is opening new revenue streams by way of third-party product in-licensing, having successfully rounded out Phase 2 evaluations and a proof-of-concept field trial with two biological insecticides in North America. Field trials in Europe with a third biological insecticide, in addition to a biological fungicide, are in progress and expected to be completed by late fall.

“Extending BVT’s product line through in-licensing of third-party biological products is one of the key innovation projects for BVT. It enables us to open new revenue streams by increasing our addressable market,” says Malik. “These products have the potential to not only deliver additional revenue but also extend BVT’s reach geographically and into new crops.”

BVT hopes to eliminate an unhealthy reliance on synthetic pesticides, and that would be great for the environment. “Having a safe, environment-friendly and affordable food supply system is something we should all care about,” says Malik. 

Malik began caring a lot about how food is grown when he was starting a family. “I became passionate about this after my wife and I started our family. I thought about my children’s well-being and joined the agriculture industry back in 2003,” says Malik.

“Bee vectoring is an all-natural approach that advances sustainable agriculture. BVT’s unique natural precision agriculture technology is a viable alternative to the inefficient practice of spraying crops globally.”

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Bee Vectoring Technologies International Inc.
at http://www.beevt.com/

Rockcliff Metals: CEO Alistair Ross is bullish on copper as everything goes electric

Rockcliff Metals (CSE:RCLF) is a Canadian near-term copper producer and active explorer in the Snow Lake greenstone belt of Manitoba.

The company has one of the largest land parcels in the Snow Lake mining belt, a region home to copper, zinc, gold, and silver deposits – the portfolio spans more than 4,500 square kilometres. Also key to the plan is the Bucko Mill, a facility that Rockliff will convert to process copper (it was originally built to handle nickel).

Rockcliff’s growth outlook is simple to grasp, with near-term annual copper production projected at 20,000 tonnes and rising gradually to over 50,000 tonnes.

Chief Executive Officer Alistair Ross spoke with Public Entrepreneur about the realities of taking a mine into production in the current environment, and what shareholders can expect from his team in 2020.

You are a seasoned mining veteran who has lived in many different parts of the world, including England and Africa. What drew you to Rockcliff’s project in Manitoba?

The opportunity to build a mining company from scratch was something I had been contemplating for a while. When the Rockcliff opportunity presented itself, I was asked to take the company from an explorer to a producer, from essentially a one-person company directing exploration activities to a company that would find its way into the mid-tier ranks of copper producers.

I jumped out of my second retirement when I saw the resource base it already had. The fact that some of the heavy lifting had already been done with Greenstone Resources providing the capital to get us through the study phase, and Norvista providing the cornerstone asset of the Bucko Mill lease as well as an important mineral resource in the Tower project, is really important.

Rockcliff’s portfolio of properties is extensive.  Walk us through the highlights.

The bulk of the properties are similar in a couple of ways. One, the deposits are at or near surface, and that would allow for rapid access via ramp and portal rather than shaft. Secondly, they are typically narrow veins and steeply dipping in nature. This has allowed us to focus on designing a mining method that could fit multiple ore bodies and allow the transfer of capital equipment from one mine to the next.

Tell us how you transform a junior explorer into a high-grade copper-zinc producer.

Our strategy is to focus on our copper-rich deposits initially due to our belief that, of all metals needed for the next phase of greening our planet, copper is virtually a core part of almost all solutions currently being contemplated and pursued.

Battery-powered electric vehicles, renewable power generation, storage of energy – all of these require copper in differing amounts. BHP put out a forecast in May 2019 suggesting that at the mid-point of forecast EV penetration, approximately 1 million tonnes per annum of extra copper would be required.

How we are aiming to position ourselves to deliver some of that extra production is by selecting three of our more promising projects (Rail, Tower, and Talbot) for drilling with an eye to preliminary economic analyses. We would then select the best looking project to advance to a bankable feasibility study (BFS) that would include defining the work required to recommission the Bucko Mill.

We would concurrently permit the mining property and the mill to become a copper producer and have a financing plan in place so that – upon board approval of a construction decision at the end of 2020 – we could begin to mobilize in early 2021. That would all be with a view to producing our first concentrate for sale in early to mid 2022.

Outline your work program for 2020 and tell us if you expect it to be a busy summer.

The whole year will be busy. We intend on having updated resource statements for Tower, Rail, and Talbot by the end of February, and our preliminary economic analyses of those three properties should be ready by early May.

From there, we would go into a bankable feasibility study on the chosen property for completion by year-end. In parallel, our permitting for the mine property and the mill will be proceeding, and our financing plan will be completed based on the preliminary economics.

While we are waiting for the BFS project selection, we are drilling our secondary properties at Copperman, Free Beth and Tramping. As soon as we have made our decision for the BFS property, we will then launch an intensive drill program to further upgrade our knowledge and allow for BFS-level work on the resource, mining, and metallurgical factors.

Can you shed some light on Rockcliff’s status regarding production permits, environmental permits, and road access to the Snow Lake properties?

We have taken all the samples and completed our studies on the Tower and Talbot properties. At Rail, we are just short of our spring study samples to be in a similar position.

We have completed our studies on the implications of placing copper tailings in the tailing area at Bucko and found no impact. We are therefore ready to file for a Notice of Alteration for the mill once we have completed our mining studies to understand what throughput may be required to match the mine output.

Roads are only contemplated for the Talbot and Rail properties, and studies are underway to assess both environmental permit applications and engineering design implications.

How much cash do you have on hand and how far does it get you?

We currently have sufficient funding to complete our required exploration program with approximately $12 million in our flow-through account, and we are on track to complete our studies for a board construction decision in December. We have about $5 million in our hard dollar account to support us until then. We would require a raise to begin construction in 2021.

What are the prospects for subsidiary Goldpath Resources, which has five highly prospective lode-gold properties within the Snow Lake area?

We are pleased that Kinross Gold has agreed to continue its earn-in option at Laguna and Lucky Jack, and we look forward to seeing their continued success. The rest of the properties are of secondary interest at the moment and we will be undertaking a strategic review of their role in our company during 2020.

Given your advanced work, has the company signed any preliminary offtake agreements?

We have not signed any offtake agreements but we have been approached with expressions of interest to talk as our studies develop. Our very early review of the ores suggests that our concentrate will be clean and of reasonable to high grade. So with current knowledge, I do not anticipate any issues placing these concentrates on the market at competitive rates.

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Rockcliff Metals Corp. at https://rockcliffmetals.com/.

HeyBryan Media: Home maintenance should be easy, safe and a few app-clicks away

HeyBryan Media (CSE:HEY) has its sights set on becoming to the home maintenance industry what Uber Technologies is to the transportation industry – a genuine disrupter.

In 2018, technologist and entrepreneur Lance Montgomery created the HeyBryan app, which seamlessly pairs homeowners and tradespeople. In short, the handyman app gives harried homeowners instant access to reliable experts in their zip code who can handle everything from electrical repairs to plumbing, and more.

Every expert undergoes a background check to ensure a safe experience. Montgomery, who has a strong track record of taking companies public, has done a good job of propelling HeyBryan’s user base, with the company recently announcing average monthly customer growth of some 115% since the beginning of 2019. Having contractor and TV personality Bryan Baeumler playing a key role in the business has certainly helped to drive that growth.

Public Entrepreneur caught up with Montgomery recently to talk about how he is creating a carpe diem moment for the company by tapping Canada’s $50 billion home maintenance market, while eyeing the even larger US market.

Can you share the story about how HeyBryan Media started?

HeyBryan started from a personal experience, as do most successful startups. One day, I came home and the dishwasher was broken. I did what everyone does and googled “dishwasher repair Vancouver” and got served with paid ads. Frustrated, I tried Craigslist and wasn’t comfortable with what I found. I didn’t feel confident about who would come, and what I would be charged. Are they vetted? Will they even show up? These are things homeowners deal with every day; it’s the small tasks that we all need done and it’s hard to find help.

So, I decided to research the space and really didn’t find anything that worked in Canada. That’s how HeyBryan Media was born.

Tell us about your marketplace app and what it does.

HeyBryan connects homeowners to home maintenance experts in your area, on your schedule. All experts are vetted and verified. It’s really an end-to-end solution that brings the connection together. Everything happens in-app – scheduling, payment, chat, ratings, reviews and rescheduling.

On the expert side, we provide the opportunity to work when you want and where you want. They set their own rates and get paid fast through the app, with money deposited in their account. We bring the business to them and allow both sides of the marketplace to rate and review each other. This gives us great data on the quality of the work and where experts rank in our system.

How long did it take the company to develop the app and line up reliable experts?

The app started slowly with just our CTO and me working on it in our spare time. But as we raised money, we were able to get additional support to speed up the process. To go live in Vancouver, we did a 30-day recruitment, so all in all it was 12 months from idea to first city launch.

Typically, does the tradesperson vetting process take a lot of time?

We partnered with Certn, an AI-based company that does ID/criminal and background checks in real time. We then have our customer success team onboard them, so it’s fairly quick. We currently have around 600 experts on the platform.

What are your key markets and how do you expect them to shape up?

We are currently live in Vancouver and Toronto with plans to expand across Canada in 2020. Our marketing efforts are showing growth in both markets and the focus is now on repeat customers, referrals and new customer acquisition, but the growth is solid. Future plans call for entering the United States.

What are the hallmarks of an innovative company and does HeyBryan fit the bill?

I think innovation is solving or disrupting an industry. This small task space has been painted with a negative brush and our goal is to change this perception. We are adding technology to a very outdated industry and bringing value to both the homeowner and the experts — this is highly innovative.

How important is it to have a company like HeyBryan with an aging Canadian population?

Peoples’ homes are their biggest asset and research shows that people are staying in their homes longer and home maintenance is a massive market. As the population ages, it’s important to have a trusted solution for this demographic so they can get help around the house with no worry.

Is the HeyBryan app the number 1 app for averting DIY (do it yourself) mishaps?

Yes, with a trusted brand like Bryan Baeumler, we feel we are number 1. There’s always competition, but we share the same values as Bryan and want to be the go-to home maintenance solution. We focus on the small tasks, so we are not looking to get into large renos, but if you maintain your home properly, you can avert larger disasters. Take a car – if you maintain it, the car will last longer, and you can avoid the engine blowing up.

Talk to us about the business model for the company.

Everything is done in-house, and we have a full team looking after technology, creative, design, development, data, marketing, sales and customer service. Everything has been built in-house, which allows us to grow and scale as well as pivot when needed.

The revenue model is two-sided. We take 20% of every completed task from the expert and a 7.5% trust and support fee from the customer. The customer fee takes care of our hard costs such as insurance/payment processing fees. All in, our margin is 27.5%.

HeyBryan is already disrupting the home maintenance industry, but do you have plans for new products?

Yes, we are exploring many avenues both in strategic partnerships and complementary new revenue streams. The opportunities in the gig economy are endless and we’re excited about the future of the overall company.

You were successful in getting Bryan Baeumler to sign on as the name brand and face of your company. How does the celebrity endorsement help keep marketing costs in check?

Securing a celebrity endorsement was a massive win. Trying to build brand awareness and consumer confidence is expensive and time-consuming. Bryan brought that reputation, as well as awareness and trust. We can leverage Bryan’s following and his massive reach allows us to spend money in other areas to evolve and grow the business.

You have the entrepreneurial DNA to take your idea and build it into a business. What is one of the important lessons that you’ve learnt?

Be patient and don’t try to rush to market with a sub-par product. Do your research, plan and always expect delays. The other major thing I learnt was how critical it is to have the right people in the right roles. Surround yourself with the right people in the right roles and allow them to shine. We have built an amazing team and I couldn’t be prouder.

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about HeyBryan Media at https://heybryan.com/.

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.