True North Labs - News

TRUE NORTH LABS – TRISTAN CASTILLO

We deep-dived cannabis and CBD with Tristan – discussing everything from challenges faced to the future of the industry.
April 7, 2022
Company News

We deep-dived cannabis and CBD with Tristan – discussing everything from challenges faced to the future of the industry.

What brought you to the Cannabis industry?

From a young age I was curious about natural medicines and pharmacology. I was fortunate enough to grow up in an environment where cannabis was not considered taboo. (Thanks Mom!) The contrast between society’s view of cannabis and what I would see in my day-to-day life deeply intrigued me. I grew up thinking cannabis was a medicinal plant that had the power to heal people with aliments, allow them to relax and incite the occasional giggle.

During my high school years, I participated in a cooperative placement at a pharmacy with my eyes set on medical school. Through this experience I realized that pharmacology was not for me. During this time my close friend started working at a hydroponics store. Out of curiosity we began growing cannabis together.

Within a year I began experimenting with making hash and oil from cannabis resin. I was introduced to a wide range of people using cannabis oil to treat ailments like cancer, MS, arthritis and fibromyalgia. I got to witness first-hand the unquestionable positive effects of cannabis and decided that this was worth committing my life to.

What skillsets from your previous experience have been the most useful in your current role?

At my last role at MediPharm Canada (TSX:LABS) I had the chance to work alongside people from Baxter, Johnson & Johnson and Boeing. This was where real-life cannabis knowledge merged with industrial standards and quality assurance practices utilized in pharmaceutical and aerospace industries. Commercial awareness, coupled with efficiency, standardization and quality output are at the top of my mind as the Technical Director of True North Labs.

Tell us more about your business?

True North Labs is an extraction, formulation and R&D lab located at the foothills of the Swiss Alps.

We have a keen awareness that cannabis consumers have a strong preference for individualized products and that our business needs to be able to respond quickly to changing trends in this emerging industry. We built our laboratory on flexible manufacturing principles that allows us to provide short production lifecycles and bespoke batch sizes while maintaining uniform manufacturing quality and fault-free production. Underlying this is quality assurance, which forms a solid part of our company’s culture. QA extends beyond workflows, processes and tools. It requires the support and contribution of management, sales, developers, designers and technicians. At the core, a culture of quality assurance enhances our ability to build and launch high-quality products that meet our stakeholders’ needs—and that’s a culture that benefits everyone.

What has been a big challenge for you so far?

Setting up a new business in a new country in the middle of a pandemic has been quite a challenge. There are no easy wins dealing with Covid. It takes some grit to move to a new country and start from scratch, but the whole TNL team believes in our cause. The various challenges we have encountered have brought us closer together as a team. I am proud of our achievements so far and our resolve to focus on the building something from the ground up.

What areas of your business/ industry were a positive surprise for you?

We are based in Pfyn which is 40 minutes east of Zurich. The quality of engineering and technology in this area surprises me everyday. This has led us to collaborate with local Swiss and European partners on research and development projects. We have been overwhelmed with applications for roles we are filling.

What are the biggest misconceptions people have about this industry?

The biggest misconception people have about the cannabis industry is that everything is easy- just show up and sell things. This could not be further from the truth. To be taken seriously and differentiate yourself from the crowd, you must operate at an extremely high level. As cannabis becomes mainstream and receives careful scrutiny from regulations, you must perform above and beyond what is expected.

How do you gather information for your business decisions?

There are many moving targets in this industry from regulatory to shifting consumer trends. We collaborate with other businesses in this space, take feedback from our customers seriously and use the experience we have built up in North America to help inform our processes.

Do you rely on any data for your business decisions? [if you could specify sources and type of data that would be great]

Currently in our industry, there is no one single source of data. As a firm we read a lot in our spare time. We consult with the latest research, white papers, market data and try to keep up with what is moving on the regulatory side.

What are your key priorities for 2021?

The things at the forefront of our minds are going online with our GMP production space and applying for a research license to handle THC as well as evaluating the emerging psychedelic medicine area. Also, building in business resiliency is key to securing supply chains post-COVID. Strategies for diversification, production flexibility, critical components, stockpiling and distribution & logistic networks are all things we are working on.

Where do you see the industry in 2022 and 2023?

  1. Cannabis on Mars…along with an accelerated stability study on a Space X flight!
  2. In an era of uncertainty, mental health related problems are becoming more common. With consumers wanting to address this cannabinoids will play an increasing role in supporting better outcomes. 66% of global consumers are interested in products that improve sleep quality, 58% of global consumers are interested in products that alleviate stress levels. Plant based health has a role to play!
  3. More Regulation will be forthcoming. In the end, we feel this is a good thing for consumers. We all need to adhere to standards and a wild west approach will not cut it going forward.
  4. 2022 and 2023 will be big years for CBD. We will finally start to see THC in the limelight as well. As companies expand medical programs and as research studies start releasing findings, we will gain a clearer understanding of the effects of medicinal THC on the endocannabinoid system.

What are the top 3 trends you see for the next 5 years?

  1. Smart Packaging! A circular approach will need to be adapted. The technology could be better utilized to make packaging interactive with smart phone technology.
  2. Consumers will want a new level of convenience when it comes to food and drink shopping- Consumers will want to spend less time on tasks that they do not deem enjoyable.
  3. Performance Products could be big. Consumers will want these products to help eliminate tiredness, soothe anxiety, enhance focus and help prompt relaxation. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is interesting and there will be a lot of research directed to understanding it better.
  4. Supply chains will need to evolve. The trends are that they remain under pressure and face more uncertainty from a changing and volatile geopolitical environment. Nationalist politics and policies are here to stay. We feel that players will need to have a regional focus as taxation will start to enter logistic conversations once Covid begins to clear. Governments need two things, revenue, and jobs. Both will be under scrutiny if you are not based on the ground in the region you are operating in.
  5. Also being a sustainable and a good climate partner are a must.