Replaceable carbon filters are the answer to costly cannabis odour control, says a new startup

Blade Filters won first place in a recent pitch competition with its recyclable technology

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“Someone’s tokin’ some reefer,” mused Adam Goldberg’s mullet-clad brainiac character, Mike Newhouse, in the cult 1993 stoner flick Dazed and Confused. Despite the subsequent beating he takes from Clint—a thug nostalgic for the greaser era—the scene points out one of the most recognizable brands of the subculture: the smell of weed.

Almost everyone can immediately identify that skunky waft of citrus and diesel emitted from the cherry of a joint, often quickly dispelled by a gust of wind. Enter legalization, and now everyone in the province is allowed to legally grow and consume cannabis in their private residence (landlord permitting, for renters), and hundreds of producers are applying to license and build large-scale grow operations. Some joke about Vancouver’s latest bout of fog actually being pot smoke, but the concern about an increase in odour emissions from consumption and cultivation is legitimately on the minds of many policymakers and cannabis-industry professionals across the country.

Debate still hovers around the validity of the concern, but municipalities and businesses are faced with quickly mitigating problems stemming from odour control—an issue one Ontario-based company promises to tackle with its latest air-filtration solution.

With a patent-pending design and airtight elevator pitch, the founders of Blade Filters Inc. took home first place in a recent cannabis-startup pitch competition. Giancarlo Sessa and brothers Aedan and Joseph Fida create replaceable activated-carbon air filters for odour removal and filtration for greenhouses or indoor grows where plants emit volatile compounds.

“Every time the carbon becomes exhausted in a unit and it’s no longer filtering out odour, you have to replace the entire thing,” Blade cofounder and chemical engineer Joseph Fida said of competing filters during the five-minute pitch to a panel of industry judges. “Keep in mind, at a recreational size alone, these filters range from nearly $130 to $500.” He said most cultivators, even at the micro level, often use more than one filter, and each only lasts up to 18 months.

With stainless-steel cartridges, the company says it has created a quicker, cleaner, and more cost-effective alternative to the existing method, which requires companies to replace an entire filtration unit.

The replaceable cartridges, which should reduce the cost of odour control by up to 30 percent, come in a range of sizes, making them an option for both home cultivators and large production facilities.

“In a microcultivation environment, and [in] municipalities around the [Lower] Mainland, we see a huge amount of concern around odour. There have been some bad actors in the licensed-producer [LP] space, and I think it’s really important that we give people a plug-and-play solution,” said Dan Sutton, a judge and founder of Tantalus Labs, a B.C.-based LP.

The panel of judges included: Rachel Colic, founder of Eves of Eden (left), Andrea Dobbs, cofounder of Village Bloomery (right), Craig Hudson, chief financial officer of Lift & Co., and Dan Sutton, founder of Tantalus Labs.
Piper Courtenay

The competition was a featured segment during the 2019 Vancouver Lift & Co. expo over the weekend. The annual industry-focused cannabis conference plays host to thousands of guests, all eager to hear about the latest research and innovation from the sector’s top experts and exhibitors.

“We determined that over 50 percent of consumers have actually tried to replace the carbon in their filters, and all of them encountered the same problems: it’s very difficult to do, creates a mess, and they can never pack the carbon as well as the manufacturer,” said Sessa, adding that the company’s recycling program also makes its system more environmentally friendly.

The Blade Filters team won several startup resources, including private consulting sessions with a cannabis-startup accelerator, Leaf Forward, and $3,000 in advertising with Lift & Co.

“There’s an industry joke that says cannabis isn’t green,” said Blade cofounder Aedan Fida. “We’re changing that, one filter at a time.”