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This week, Jack Naito, president of Luna Technologies, talks about why he left a career as an R&D engineer at Boeing to design and manufacture cannabis extraction equipment.
Luna specializes in hydrocarbon extraction. Its IO Extractor is a patented, automated system that can process up to 25 pounds of plant feedstock per hour to produce high-quality, craft extracts.
While many companies try to make the extraction process safer through automation, many solutions just add capabilities to the system without isolating workers from the risks. Naito wanted to give extractors the tools they need to produce safe and consistent products while taking employees out of the extraction lab.
Naito founded Luna Technologies in 2016 with grade school friend Kyler Buck, who had built a separate extraction business.
Naito was working in the research and development group at Boeing in St. Louis, with a nearly half-billion-dollar budget, when he was first approached by Buck to talk cannabis extraction. When Naito walked into Buck’s facility, it looked like Frankenstein's laboratory. He flew back to St. Louis and put in his two weeks' notice the next day.
Although cannabis can be a lucrative industry, extraction technology lagged behind. Naito and Buck initially tried to automate existing equipment — most of it repurposed from brewery parts and equipment from other industries. In the end, their products worked, but didn't create a good process, so they started over with a clean slate — and a slightly smaller budget.
The company then launched the IO Extractor, which makes it easier to load and unload the equipment and makes the recovery process more efficient. Despite his efforts to engineer human error out of the equation, Naito said he still runs into problems because people in the cannabis industry “like to tinker.”
Naito also discussed how he brought in experts from other industries, including an operations manager from the pharmaceutical sector, to help build a successful startup.