If you’ve never been to the northern coast of California to Humboldt County, this is an unusual paradise. Giant redwoods rise above the backyard barbecues, flowering trees sprout gigantic flowers, and dense rainforests swarm shoulder to shoulder with sandy beaches.
The violent and unpredictable Pacific Ocean draws visitors to a coastline full of fallen trees and rocky islands out of reach.
It contains a bit of magic, and somehow the Kraken and Bigfoot don’t feel like fairy tales in the grandeur of Humboldt’s often indomitable desert.
This is the scenario in which Case Mandel and Lizandro Salazar V built their bond with cannabis.
Before launching the county’s first licensed botanical mining company, they spent years living outside of their trucks in ancient forests, tending secret fields and learning first-hand why the Emerald Triangle is the most beautiful climate in the world for cannabis cultivation.
Mandel has already been successful with Cannadips, the country’s first cannabis and CBD immersion.
As this brand continues to grow, he and Salazar are building a new type of mining business. They are using single-source buds, instantly frozen and sun-grown to form the basis of their living resin line: Arcata Fire.
In this exclusive interview, we talk to Mandel and Salazar to discover their inspiration, their strategy and the following for their award-winning line of live resin extracts.
Cannabis and technology today: When did you realize you wanted to launch ArcataX?
Case Mandel: I was the first of us involved in oil extraction even though Lizandro and I were using bubble bags years before. I bought one of the first closed circuit extraction machines ever built in the early days of hydrocarbon extraction.
After working in the traditional mining market I met my wife. He gave me an ultimatum: if he was going to continue spending time with me and looking to build a family, I would have to stop working in a market that could jeopardize my freedom.
Luckily, I had just completed an MBA and California had just passed point 64 for recreational legalization, so I brought my skills to the new legal market. My first step in starting a business was to do what I know best and connect with people. I went out and found a capital partner as well as a partner for cutting edge custom extraction equipment. Then I took my best high school friend Lizandro [Salazar] design and manage the project. He grabbed it by the horns and we were able to become the first legal and operational mining facility in Humboldt County.
Lizandro Salazar V: The aha moment was a little different for me. He was working on a premise of cultivation, building it from scratch. Everyone was cultivating, but no one was licensed because many were in the process of applying; at the time, the application process was as far as it could go. One morning we went home for breakfast, and there was a huge convoy of sheriffs, the state water board, natural resources, fish and wildlife … all these people were there.
The next thing I know, there were shotguns in my face. In short, they let us go, but we ended up being the first farm in the application process in Humboldt County to be attacked. When I saw this happen, I said, “Wow, legal cultivation is a bit incomplete.” We need to look at manufacturing as a possible next step.
Shortly after we started, we realized that the industry was being marketed very quickly. A few months later we saw prices starting to fall and as this decline began to occur, margins changed and competition increased. This is where the transformation really comes from ArcataX as a crude oil manufacturer became ArcataX as a premium manufacturer of live resin.
C&T today: What is unique about what ArcataX is doing in the industry?
LS: We’re one of the few companies that really goes to the farms to harvest the crops ourselves. We started making these harvest SOPs, which was about preserving the freshness of these aromas and profiles, to be representative of the smell that plant smells as it grows.
Due to the scale of our equipment, we were also able to harvest and freeze in a very short time, and also extract this material, sometimes on the same day. If you’re harvesting 2,000 square feet and it takes two months to extract, well, that’s fine, but we’d harvest a few thousand square feet and extract them the next day. We have been able to bring these gardens from full maturity to almost a finished product in a very, very short time.
Then we started to see that the data around these oils was extremely high in terpene content, extremely diverse in terpene types, even terpenes that you would never see elsewhere. Then we realized that this is something really special.
C&T today: The ability to get your products off the shelves faster: was it the result of the specific technology you were using, or rather the scale of the technology you were using?
LS: I like to think of it as a perfect storm to meet the right people, to grow the right genetics, at the right time, in the right place. It is the technology along with the SOPs.
So we started really researching, not only how quickly can we extract this material, but how quickly can we do it? That’s where our solvent-free process became one of our key components.
We use certain solvents that have been chosen for their selectivity when it comes to attracting certain special cannabis compounds. Then recovering all this solvent from the finished product to an undetectable level.
C&T today: Why did ArcataX choose to look for living resins, specifically?
LS: The plant itself has a code, or a recipe, or a certain fingerprint that it is putting. Each stump and each plant has a different one. Within this code, there are good things and bad things. Through our extraction process, we can extract what we consider to be the best parts of this code.
We don’t want to break this code into small pieces. We want to make sure it is cohesive because of that terpè profile, that certain potency and cannabinoids, types of cannabinoids and flavonoids, and all these other compounds … all of them are part of the musical orchestra that creates the symphony which is the experience that has given us some award-winning results.
What makes the resin live is that it captures this essence at the time of harvest and preserves it almost in its entirety. When you open a jar or receive a blow, you are basically having the same experience as walking to that farm, squeezing that flower and smelling it yourself.
C&T today: ArcataX obtains much of its microclimate feed material. Why is it important to you?
LS: Plant and animal systems usually work best when there is a diversity of different species occupying different parts of the three-dimensional environment. Our farms they are usually surrounded by acres of forest. Our farmers often plant tons of different types of species around their gardens that carry predatory insects that eat pests.
When it comes to land, many of our farmers have been building their land for decades and decades. These soils are indigenous and are extremely rich in nutrients. Many of these soils, due to the water table and proximity to the river, have the ability to be absorbed during the night and then lower during the day. Our best farmers don’t even have to water.
C&T today: You launched Arcata Fire earlier this year and took first place in the live resin cartridge category at the Emerald Cup. What do you think has made your product stand out from the judges?
CM: Our victory with the judges was a representation of the incredible initial material we were able to gain as a result of the relationships we have developed over the last twenty years.
This material, along with the SOPs we have developed over hundreds of thousands of pounds of extraction, gave us the edge.
LS: There’s a phrase you’ll hear around the industry: shoot, shoot. You can’t get a good finished product unless you start with something good. Arcata Fire is one of our best of our best premium crops that we will not sell to anyone else because it is highly coveted by us. Everything is from a single source, that is, everything comes from the same place. It’s a whole lot, that is, I don’t mix or blend different strains together. Everything is 100% raw resin, which means that everything in each product is derived from 100% of this frozen material.
There are all these little things that come together and create a place where the consumer says, “Wow,
this is the best cannabis product I have ever consumed, ”and we see it almost every day. He’s just taking California by storm and we’re very proud of that. ⁇