Look Back, Look Forward: OCO Labs

By Mat Lee

Chris Lively
Director of Operations, OCO Labs

OCO Labs is a Portland, Oregon, business we kept running into during the 2016 cannabis conference rounds. They always had a cool, eye-catching booth, with plenty of interesting information about their affordable tabletop CO2 extractor: the Super C. We first featured OCO Labs in the September issue of the CannaBiz Journal.

The feedback has been extremely positive, with two main types of interested users. On one hand, home growers think it would be useful. On the other hand, commercial growers are excited that they will be able to batch-test. Because Oregon had an issue with pesticides, a lot of people  use it for batch testing.

Chris said that the Super C was designed with a personal application in mind—thus the tabletop form factor and small capacity. Capacity can be expanded with the upgrade kit, going from the initial one ounce up to four ounces. While they thought a couple of years ago that batch testing might be another potential market for them, they didn’t actively pursue it. He said that because pesticide contamination hit a couple of the large processors in Oregon pretty hard in the last 18 months, they’ve dovetailed into the processors workflow. In a sort of unfortunate luck, batch testing has now become almost necessary for farms and processors. Chris said that now they just have to find out who these people are and where they fall in the industry. If this sounds like you, Chris and his team at OCO Labs can help.

Speaking more on this point, Chris said, “We all kind of assumed that testing the raw material would be good enough, but it wasn’t until we started talking in the extraction world about how the risks of pesticides and things also concentrating in the output, it wasn’t until we got to that point that we realized that just testing the raw material might not be sufficient.”

When asked about whether the regular size or upgrade expansion is more popular, Chris said, “Most of us (at-home engineers and designers) have definitely migrated over to the expansion, and we kind of thought that would be the case. But that was the surprise with batch testing. Those guys actually don’t need a bigger system. In fact some of them aren’t even putting a full ounce in; they do a half ounce because you can run it in half the time and that’s all they need to get their samples for a test. It’s sort of this ironic inversion we didn’t expect where our smallest scale use case uses our largest configuration and our commercial use case uses our smallest configuration.”

For the new year, Chris said they are working on some things he can’t talk about, but he can talk about upgrades and improvements to the Super C. They plan to make it more energy-efficient, stabilize performance and make it run better. They also rewrote the autopilot program to allow it to run dynamically in a way it didn’t before. We’ll undoubtedly hear about the stuff he can’t talk about on the conference floor this year.

In the last year, Chris said that one of the cool things he remembered was at the Cannabis Science conference. “It was very interesting to walk around the room and see Shimadzu, Perkin Elmer, Hamilton Robotics—these companies that are new to our space, interacting with our people, if you will. The inside industry—the culture people—sort of don’t really know how to talk to these business guys, and these guys seem like the kind of guys that close big deals over games of golf, not a common trend in our industry. So seeing two normally, historically separate worlds interacting ... was kind of cool. That seems like it’s going to be a trend.”

Chris said “Historically, our scene, our community, has had a certain DIY, truly organic, figure-it-out, in an old world approach ethos. It’s one of the things that is refreshing about our culture, but I think sophisticated testing isn’t something we can DIY our way through.”