Denis Taschuk, President & CEO
On the driveway of a sprawling 20,000 square foot facility in Edmonton, Alberta, a commercial delivery truck proceeds to the unloading station, leaving a trail of pungent aroma. Soon, a group of workers unloads the piles of rosemary sprigs that were stacked inside the truck. What follows next is the extraction of antioxidant compounds from the rosemary herb that has shown huge promise as an effective natural preservative in the food and beverage industry.
The problem with extracting actives from any herb or natural product is that there is often a compromise on the product purity, and the recovery quantities of the compound, which is not very profitable. In addition, the extraction time typically takes anywhere between four to twenty-four hours and the raw material has to be ground pre-extraction and post extraction as the subsequent compound purification methods are more complex and time-consuming. The Radient Technologies [TSXV: RTI] facility at Edmonton has the answer to this puzzle.
Their patented technology, Microwave assisted processingtm (MAP), provides solutions for complex natural compound extraction procedures, assuring unparalleled customer outcomes for ingredient purity, yield, and cost.
Back to the industrial extraction unit at Edmonton; the extract from the rosemary leaves is separated in less than ten minutes, and the product hadn’t lost any of its luster. The purity of the compound far exceeds the purity had it been produced using conventional extraction procedures. Radient manages the entire process without altering the constituents of the material, and the high purity compound was prepared for the customer
The Big ‘Wave’
Conventional methodologies often employ a procedure where the biomass is fed into gigantic stainless steel tanks in a dry ground format and blended with solvents, like hexane or ethanol. The mixture is heated until the compound of interest is diffused from the biomass. There are three factors to be considered here: massive quantities of the solvent are used, where once the equilibrium point of the liquid is reached, it must be replaced with a fresh batch. Secondly, the process is slow and may take up to a day’s time; thirdly, high amounts of energy are consumed in heating. “While our MAPTM technique is still solvent based, our difference is that we create a slurry with the biomass and solvent; then we pipe the slurry to our extraction units, where it is treated with microwaves, after which the separation and final purification procedures are performed,” says Radient’s President and CEO, Denis Taschuk. Using the MAPTM technology, the extraction time is a mere 20 minutes, where some extractions are done in less than five minutes.
The key benefits are increased speed, better throughputs, 60 to 70 percent reduction in solvent usage, compound purity of more than 60 percent, and only a fraction of the power is consumed.
How are microwaves a definitive cut above traditional extraction processes? Taschuk gets down to the fundamentals by illustrating the functions of their inherent nature. When a glass of water is heated using microwaves, it forces a vibration of the water molecules, creating heat, steam, and pressure. “The pressure-driven phenomenon happens rapidly; in our extraction process, the solvents don’t absorb microwave energy. The energy must go somewhere and it goes into the water molecules present in the biomass, ultimately causing a buildup of pressure in the cells that forces the compounds out of the biomass,” he says. Since the process is quicker, the extract profiles are cleaner, and there aren’t many undesirable residues which can disturb the aroma and taste of the end product. Radient’s MAPTM technology is favorable for companies that are looking for a higher concentration of extracts or to a much better starting point than conventional extractions. The required downstream chemical course of action can then be applied to isolate and purify the extract, and this also includes simpler and fewer steps than traditional extraction processes.
Working toward Differentiation
“Most of our customers work with us for either of these two reasons,” says Denis Taschuk. One, the target compound they’re extracting is difficult to extract, and two, where they’re trying to improve the quality or differentiate their particular product from others in the marketplace. Radient’s unique technology solves the complexities and helps their customer create a desired and unique product. “Radient’s extraction process at the Edmonton facility is capable of handling five metric tonnes of biomass input daily,” explains Taschuk. “Alternatively, we work on projects where the requirement is for as much as 30-50 tonnes on a daily basis, and we also can build the technology and installations at our customer’s facility.”
Secondly, food and beverage companies including ingredient and flavor producers, pharmaceuticals, natural health, and personal care item manufacturers that develop natural products, often make their case for improving their products or coming up with new products. Since most of their raw materials come from Asian countries like China and India, there is hardly any room for quality differentiation in the commodity procurement. Their only hope to step above commoditization amid competition is in yielding higher purity and inventing novel products that aren’t in the marketplace today. This is when most of these companies go on a hunt for new technologies to help them as they’ve exhausted the methods with existing tools. However, there haven’t been significant changes in the extraction methodologies at an industrial scale in the last 40 years. “Radient is here to provide the solutions that are required to get our clients to better quality products or new products, and we work along with them toward product differentiation,” Taschuk adds. Their highly R&D-invested and recently commercialized proprietary technology, MAPTM is referred to as the leading edge of extraction capabilities offered in the industry today.
Safely Designed for the Future
Contrary to popular belief that microwaves may contaminate the product or run the risk of irradiation, or overheat it degrading the crucial compounds, Radient’s MAPTM technology is validated to be safe. “Our equipment is safer than your kitchen’s microwave oven,” quips Taschuk. “We have first-rate safety measures such as temperature and pressure detection levels and automatic shut-down in place.” In cases like the rosemary extraction, where the compound is heat sensitive, the entire process has to be done at a low temperature that does not destroy the compound of interest, and the MAPTM technology is designed to tackle these determinants with ease. Radient has given its engineers ample time and resources, and the leeway to stabilize their technology and get it through approving authorities like the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the pending Health Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).
Started in the year 2001, Radient ensured its team had sufficient time to solve the technical challenges and achieve the readiness for using microwaves for the extraction and then designing, building, and operating equipment at an industrial and commercial scale. Comfortably capitalized, the company is now moving rapidly in the execution of its global commercialization strategy.
Radient is starting to look beyond the North American market and has identified that European countries are leaders in the production of naturally-derived products, based on the quality and standards. “As European consumers are further ahead in the production of such products, so are the regulators in the region; so, we are finding a lot of interest from European companies who want to partner and work with us. In the mid-term, our presence in Europe will be significantly enhanced, as we already have teams and touchpoints stationed there,” states Taschuk. “We will be building infrastructure around that foundation over the course of 2018 and 2019.” In terms of areas of interest, Radient is expecting to see a surge in companies from the natural sweeteners industry and botanical drugs manufacturers requiring their MAPTM technology. The uniqueness of Radient’s solution has already invited multinational and market leaders in the sectors they cater to. With innovative engineers and scientific experts working toward the enhancement of the MAPTM technology, there is little indication that their leadership position will be changing anytime soon.