Green Leaf Lab of Portland, Oregon, had established a leadership position in cannabis testing in the Northwest, but the legalization of recreational cannabis created growing customer and regulatory demands that were straining the lab’s ability to efficiently manage the business.
The leadership team focused on improving tracking and efficiency by automating workflow, reporting, and QC with the implementation of Element LIMS® from PROMIUM®. Element LIMS provided strong scientific and analytical functionality and cannabis-specific features, while increasing operational performance.
Located in Portland, Oregon, and established in 2011, Green Leaf Lab was one of the first laboratories in the Northwest to perform analytical testing for medical cannabis. With the legalization of recreational cannabis in 2016, Green Leaf expanded operations and is now a leader in supporting testing for recreational use as well. In fact, Green Leaf was the first ORELAP accredited and OLCC licensed cannabis laboratory. And the lab has repeatedly been recognized nationally for its exceptionally high testing proficiency. Testing includes pesticides, potency, residual solvents, water activity, moisture content, terpenes, mold, and homogeneity testing.
Customers include small growers and larger cannabis corporations. The small farmers may have as few as ten plants and the larger investment-backed industrial growers may have fifteen thousand or more. More than anything else, these customers want quick turnaround time, accurate results, and strong reporting. They want a business partner like Green Leaf who will help them navigate the unpredictability of an evolving compliance landscape and help them succeed.
The cannabis market is exploding and this significant growth and dynamic regulatory environment pose many opportunities and challenges. According to Eric Wendt, Chief Science Officer of Green Leaf, one of the unique aspects of the cannabis market in some states is that laboratories are required to fill an unusual role. “The State has put the onus on the laboratory as the enforcement arm. We are required by the State to issue pass fail criteria to the State on behalf of our customers.” Consequently, the burden on the lab is much higher than in other sectors.
For years, Green Leaf had survived with home-grown spreadsheets and manual procedures to meet their sample management needs. With the legalization of recreational cannabis the market changed dramatically. “We had done a pretty good job but I knew that with the increase in workload that we were hoping to achieve, we would need some assistance with streamlining and automating,” said Wendt.
Green Leaf Lab owner, Rowshan Reordan, knew the solution to the problem was a more integrated and automated approach to information management. This was also key to being able to scale up the business as well. Reordan and her Chief Science Officer Eric Wendt championed a project to implement a commercial laboratory information management system (LIMS). Over the course of a year, the team looked at several options. An open-source solution required Green Leaf to provide their own development resources and just wasn’t a good fit. They also considered a somewhat well-known company in the cannabis market that focuses on collecting and reporting data. That solution required Green Leaf customer information to be viewable and become the property of a third party, raising NELAC/TNI compliance and legal issues. Green Leaf wasn’t confident the solution would meet their internal quality control requirements, client confidentiality rules and stringent analytical and scientific needs.
The team looked at the solutions other organizations were using which led to choosing Promium and Element LIMS. The cannabis testing configuration of Element LIMS includes: accounting system integration, remote sampling or in-lab sampling, instrument integration, embedded QC, audit trails, automated reporting, automatic posting to seed-to-sale system, and automatic weight reconciliation.
One area of reference was state agencies. “In talking with state agencies, when we mentioned that we were thinking about working with Promium to integrate our system, there were glowing recommendations from everybody who had experience with it,” said Wendt.
“Once we started discussing the Element LIMS capabilities we realized the value of the additional services we would be able to offer customers, the increased throughput, as well as internal tracking and QC. We saw the system bring us to a point where we could handle a larger volume and insure data integrity and sample control.”
With the implementation of Element LIMS, Green Leaf found it easier to control and visualize the testing workflow and sample tracking. Depending on the product type, samples may have multiple analyses performed and the ability to see what testing has been performed and what still needs to be accomplished provides greater visibility. It has become easier to track turnaround time and identify bottlenecks as well. Just being able to perform data review in an orderly, systematic, and well put together package, along with the automation of reporting results to customers, significantly reduced workload. “There is so much less data entry and it was easy to increase the amount of quality control that we can run with each batch without increasing the work load, because the process is automated and streamlined,” said Wendt. “And the fact that we can upload all the instrumentation data into Element LIMS is helpful for data defensibility and for reviewing and interpreting results.”
Eric Wendt, Chief Science Officer
“Element LIMS functionality, because it is designed to meet the requirements of a more regulatory, more strict environment, has all the things that we need in order to meet expectations for data integrity, quality control, and tracking. I would be shocked if the other systems could compete with the data tracking functionality that we have with Element LIMS,” said Wendt. And with regard to regulatory compliance, Element LIMS has provided added benefit. “Element LIMS has added credibility to our standing in the State’s eyes because we’re so on top of it. We have everything they are looking for and it makes their job easier,” said Wendt. “It makes our relationship with the state authority better.”
“Tracking the data, assuring that quality control was being met, as well as having a repository of all of our customer data, interactions and contacts, and accessing historic reports with ease when people call in with questions has been very helpful.” Wendt gave an example of when a customer called with questions about test results that were outside of what they expected. It was quick and easy for him to go into Element LIMS and review every result that had been issued in detail and compare them. The data demonstrated the validity of the results and gave the customer confidence. “It would have taken me ten times longer before Element LIMS,” said Wendt.
With Element LIMS, Green Leaf Lab has implemented a platform that has improved their business performance and will support future analytical and operational needs.
Green Leaf Lab owner Reordan has been satisfied with the project. “Working with Promium has been worth every penny and more. Not only have they saved us money and time, but using Element LIMS has allowed us to scale up with accuracy and integrity and continue to be leaders in the industry.”