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The Inventor, the Sales & Marketing Executive and Legalization: Eden Labs takes off

Eden Labs was founded way back in 1996, in Columbus, Ohio well before the current Green Rush (but at the outset of medical marijuana legalization in California), to create extraction equipment for botanicals. Before that, Fritz Chess, Founder, was a science journalist, worked in nutraceuticals and had a landscaping business but he always had an interest in herbal medicine. After searching for a device where he could do his own extractions, Fritz decided to create his own and built a table top contraption called Coldfinger, based on the work of Franz Von Soxhlet, a 19th and early 20th century German agricultural chemist.

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The Coldfinger device could operate at low temperatures and capture and re-use the solvent used in the original extraction. With its invention, Fritz had himself a new business opportunity.

After selling Eden Landscaping, Fritz began bootstrapping and working part-time while he started Eden Labs (Eden Labs was the code word Fritz would use with friends when he was extracting his own cannabis in the landscaping days) before he began working full-time in 1998. Fritz first started selling extraction equipment to early post Prop 215 California dispensaries in 1996, and he modestly told me that Eden Labs was most than likely the first American manufacturer offering and doing CO2 extraction for kava Kava and Cannabis and was the first company to advertise extraction equipment in High Times (The Coldfinger) in 1996.

The original Coldfinger devices used ethanol and water as a solvent, but as Fritz learned more about the process, he began exploring and developing a supercritical carbon dioxide extraction device. After many modifications, he began selling these devices to companies involved in biofuels, flavorings, and plastics. The smaller Coldfinger units were driving his sales volume and revenue, but the potential for the CO2 extractors was evident (some of which garnished as much as $275,000 a unit), although demand was still limited before 2008.

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Eden Labs was able to meet demand at the time with Andy Joseph, now the CEO of one of his two chief competitors (the other being Waters Corporation) manufacturing the orders and Fritz building the intellectual property. Between 2005-2012 while traveling back and forth between the West Coast and his Ohio manufacturing base, Fritz and Andy made a pretty good living that would take off when the Green Rush busted loose with legalization of first medical retailers, processors and producers in Colorado ,and then adult-use retailers in 2014.

During those years, Fritz and his wife, AC Braddock , a sales and marketing real estate executive who he had known for years through a common friend, fell in the love. She was consulting for Fritz, and in 2008, they became life partners. After acting in an advisory role, primarily driving sales revenues and marketing, AC became CEO of the company in 2010. She also became majority owner of the LLC , making Eden Labs one of the important woman-owned businesses in the Cannabis Industry.

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According to Fritz, he and Andy split up over their fundamental differences in the build and design of CO2 extractors, and Andy, whose company had outsourced work on a handshake agreement with Fritz from the early days, decided to depart from Eden Labs and took his manufacturing expertise and team to start his new company, Apeks Supercritical in July of 2012.

This set the stage for a critical period for Eden Labs, which literally had to rebuild its manufacturing operations from scratch, and they did so in Seattle, Washington, AC and Fritz’s home state. They weathered the storm with a backlog of orders and are now roaring back to solid profitability and operations growth due to the solid installed base of Coldfinger devices that had been their original cash cow, and, the increase demand for the larger CO2 extractors. After getting the manufacturing side of their business back in order, Eden Labs generated over $5.5 million in revenues in 2014 and has expanded their workforce to include over 20 employees and a second manufacturing facility in Buckley, Washington. Fritz and AC expect that they will combine their manufacturing operations somewhere south of Seattle in the not too distant future.

The company Fritz started is now one of the three large extraction equipment companies, selling high end extraction equipment to the rapidly expanding state licensed Producer and Processor and Retailer communities serving medical and adult- cannabis users, and they are running at a revenue clip that could easily eclipse $24 million this year. The lion’s share of unit sales are still the smaller Coldfinger extractors, but the majority of their revenue is derived from the Hi-Flow CO2 systems.

Eden used to create and build custom solutions for clients, but their new manufacturing process focuses on off-the-shelf adjustable volume Hi-Flo extraction equipment, Coldfinger devices, distillery equipment, and accessories. They are currently negotiating adding distributors in Oregon, California, and Jamaica to service demand in those growing cannabis markets. Overall, cannabis extraction accounts for 85-90 percent of Eden Labs sales and it isn’t slowing down anytime soon with the rapidly growing industry demand that will continue as more state’s come online.

AC was quick to point out that Eden Labs is in the process of securing patents for four (4) of their designs and working on preparing another four designs for patents as well. They are also refining their mission to create safe and well functioning systems that create healthy extractions. Their website promotes Eden Labs as the only company to capitalize on the pioneering work with pressurized ethanol and water at the USDA food sciences research facility in Peoria, Illinois. There, USDA scientists found that pressurized ethanol and/or water was often superior to other methods including supercritical CO2, in extracting natural products. Eden Labs is the only company offering high pressure solvent extractors based on this research.

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Fritz and AC also follow industry best practices in supporting great causes and think of their solutions as eco-sustainable and environmentally friendly. AC is a founding member of two of Washington’s Cannabis Business Women’s groups — WOW (Women of Weed) and the MJBA’s Women’s Alliance,  and Eden is the first business to support Women Grow in its National growth. AC is dedicated to creating a new paradigm of corporate structure with a lateral, team oriented structure which she believes is essential in an innovative, technology based company. They are currently reviewing partnership opportunities to help fund additional expansion and will either self-finance or bring in a partner to share in workflow management.

Don’t expect Eden Labs to land anytime soon, demand and an excellent product mix should drive growth into the foreseeable future!

 

Company Name: Eden Labs LLC

Year Founded: 1996

Ownership Structure: Private Company Incorporated in Washington state

Management Team: Fritz Chess, Founder, & AC Braddock, CEO

Headquarters: Seattle, WA

Industry Segment/Category: Extraction Equipment. Eden Labs makes compressed gas extraction systems utilizing CO2, ethanol, water and distillation equipment for herbal extractions.

Current Markets/States Served: International & National

Current Number of employees: 22

Website: https://edenlabs.com/

2014 Revenues: $5.5 Million, according to AC Braddock, and tracking at $24 million in 2015

Current Product Mix: SuperCritical CO2, Butane, propane, RI34, etc as well as steam and ethanol.

Expansion Plans: Production, Lab and administrative facilities

Financing strategy: To date from operations and seed capital

Rob Meagher

Rob Meagher

Rob Meagher, CBE’s Founder, President and Editor-in-Chief is a 30 year veteran of the media world. His career has spanned from stints representing the Washington Post, USA Weekend, Reader’s Digest, Financial World & Corporate Finance to the technology world where he worked at International Data Group and Ziff Davis where he was part of the launch team for The Web Magazine, Yahoo Internet Life, Smart Business and Expedia Travels before starting his own marketing and Publisher’s Representative Firm. He also ran all print and online media sales and marketing for the Society for Human Resource Management before partnering with Forbes and then Fortune to create Special Sections covering a variety of topics. Rob, who started CBE Press in 2014, can be contacted at [email protected]

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