Founded in 2018 by Dr. Maxime Paris, Ph.D. in plant molecular genetics and holder of an MBA in international business, EXKA is the first Quebec company specializing in the research, innovation and development of cannabis-based pharmaceutical products.
Antoine Boucher, Sales Director, explains that EXKA niches itself in a category of advanced technical and scientific services. The company’s main activity: micropropagation, storage of genetic material and extraction.
Q: What role does EXKA want to play in the cannabis industry in the short, medium and long term?
A: EXKA wants to be an essential center of expertise for extraction, a leader in genetic innovation and an essential service for all companies in the sector.
Located in Mirabel, the company has Plant Tissues Culture laboratories, a hybrid greenhouses complex and an approved GMP/EUGMP extraction facility plant.
With an extraction capacity of more than 150,000 kilos per year, the extraction branch is EXKA’s core business. The complexity of such processes requires equipment of the highest quality at the cutting edge of technology, hence the GMP certification.
Q: What is the purpose of extraction, what is the company looking for and what is extracted from the cannabis flowers?
A: There are three extraction techniques at EXKA. The goal is to obtain either cannabis oil or distillate.
The first extraction technique targets crude cannabis oil using a supercritical CO2 process. The second, by ethanol precipitation, consists in extracting a winterized oil. The process involves dissolving the extract in ethanol, then dropping the temperature of the mixture. The cold allows for the separation of compounds by differences in their melting and precipitation points, says Boucher. The third and final extraction method aims to obtain a distillate with a purity level greater than 95% cannabinoids.
Q: What are the advantages for EXKA to specialize in extraction?
A: We are in the infancy of a new flourishing industry. Cannabis products have incredible medicinal potential. We want to become the No. 1 biomass extraction center for cannabis producers in Canada and provide the manufacturer of new cannabis products with pharmaceutical grade, reliable, reproducible and consistent cannabis oil.
Micropropagation & Genetic Cloning
One of the challenges of the cannabis industry is prevention, sanitation and hygiene of facilities. In vitro laboratories (PTC Labs) allow plants to come out without insects, disease or pathogens, says Boucher.
EXKA has a production capacity of more than 5,000 clones per day, which is equivalent to more or less 1-1.5 million clones per year.
Q: Why do you want to genetically modify the plants?
A: We are working on the development of new superior genetics. The plants we are working on are ultra vigorous and have excellent yields. Unlike the classical method, we work with the plant’s stem cells, which allows us to improve the species and thus improve the quality of the final products.
The beauty, according to Boucher, is that EXKA can work on the genetics of its own plant inventory, and it also opens up greater access for current and future demand to work on clones from other companies’ varieties, which they do not necessarily have the expertise to do.
Q: What are the advantages of such cloning services?
A: Working from stem cells provides unparalleled flexibility that allows us to meet very specific custom requests. For example, we can decide on the shape of the plants according to the needs and capacities of our clients’ greenhouses.
Genetics in the Cloud?
Achieving excellent genetics is a long and expensive process for many companies in the sector. How can we make sure that this long and tedious work is protected? EXKA offers peace of mind to entrepreneurs by providing genetic storage for plants.
Q: How does genetic storage work?
A: We propose to securely store in our PTC Lab an explant of our customer preferred strains which acts as a “backup” of the genetics. If something happens to one of our clients’ production sites, they will be assured of quickly obtaining plants with the original genetics in order to restart production as quickly as possible.
EXKA has 10 gutter connected but yet independent hybrid greenhouses covering more than 28,000 square feet, from which it is possible to control light, ventilation, humidity and irrigation levels. The goal of having 10 greenhouses, says Boucher, is to create a weekly harvest cycle.
Q: Why have greenhouses? Are you planning to sell flowers?
A: No, EXKA’s intention behind the greenhouses is mainly for R&D purposes. All yields from the greenhouse are to be extracted. They will also be used to test new varieties and to grow clones for customers who will want 6 to 8 inch plants, not just young plantlets. Hybridation programs and seed production could also take place in the greenhouses.
Helping out in the Industry
EXKA is confident, says Boucher, that helping each other in the industry is the best way to overcome the challenges of a flourishing market. We hope that the quality of the products that pass through EXKA will make a major difference on industry standards.