Securing Cannabis Across the Supply Chain

May 10, 2021
Applied DNA Sciences and and TruTrace Technologies team up to tag, test, and track cannabis products from seed to sale.

Tracking cannabis from the farm to the dispensary is important to the safety of the entire marketplace. How to do it, however, has left many supply chain experts dazed and confused. But Applied DNA Sciences, a company that creates molecular tagging technology for supply chain security, anti-counterfeiting, and anti-theft technology, has an answer—at least a portion of it.

The company’s molecular technology has been used in textile, pharmaceutical, fertilizer, and personal care products, as well as military applications. The company has two core competencies, one focused on large scale linear DNA production for diagnostics and vaccines, and the other focused on supply chain authentication. Its LinearDNA Biopharmaceutical system uses polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to deliver highly purified DNA, without the complications of plasmids used in cell therapies, vaccines, diagnostics, and gene therapies. On the supply chain side, Applied DNA has developed a platform, called CertainT, that provides manufacturers with marketplace integrity through its three pillar approach of tag, test, and track.

According to company officials, in 2017 they started testing CertainT with cannabis products. The process starts with a unique molecular tag that can be applied to the flower or hemp via fog or electrostatic spray, and added to the formulation of oils, tinctures, tablets, or lotions. It can also be applied to labels and packaging. The tag serves as a definitive indicator of authenticity, origin, and provenance.

As the product travels to the processor, they are equipped with a portable device used to test samples. “The way we’ve structured the tag, you can tell what country or state it comes from and also from what company,” said John Shearman, Applied DNA Sciences’ vice president of marketing. In addition, once it gets to the dispensary, an optical check with a UV light can identify the packaging tag—using Applied DNA Beacon technology—to make sure the product on the shelf is not counterfeit, he said.

So that takes care of the tagging and the testing. For the tracking part, Applied DNA needed a partner.

Earlier this year, the company teamed up with TruTrace Technologies, a developer of a blockchain-based track-and-trace platform it calls StrainSecure that is used for the legal cannabis, food, and pharma industries. The duo are working on delivering a complete cannabis product validation and authentication platform that links together the Applied DNA molecular tracking technology with TruTrace’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform to create a secure ecosystem for end-to-end traceability and transparency where all activity is captured and stored in a secure database.

The integration of platforms is done through APIs to exchange data elements as part of the complete chain of custody from source materials to products on the shelf. “There’s integration between the platforms and the [testing] machine so everything is automated to give you a dashboard inside the CertainT portal of all the tests, [showing] if the batches passed or failed,” Shearman said. In addition, TruTrace’s blockchain-based software is designed to guarantee product quality and strain genetics as it progresses through the supply chains. “You take all of that rich information captured from the origin of the plant to the shelf and now you have true transparency to the customer.”

Listen to this podcast on how the cannabis industry may change with the new administration and Congress.

Protecting consumers and brands from contaminants and counterfeiting is the ultimate benefit of the integrated platforms. “Partnering with Applied DNA is a natural progression of our go-to-market strategy to align ourselves with best-of-breed technology solutions to bring additional value to our customers and the industry as a whole,” said Robert Galarza, TruTrace’s CEO. “CertainT is the perfect technology complement to our platform—providing that extra level of true transparency and traceability the industry needs as we enter the next phase of legalized cannabis across the globe.”

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