A Q&A With Founder Aleks
A producer of solventless extraction equipment just outside of Toronto, Hashtek was built off a true love for the cannabis plant and a deep respect for the art form that is making hash.
I recently sat down with founder Aleks to pick his brain about the Hashtek brand – from its humble beer and hash-inspired beginnings, to how their cutting-edge machinery is now helping craft producers bring high-quality solventless products to the masses.
When did you develop a love for smoking and making hash?
I’ve always had a personal relationship with cannabis and its medicinal properties, and I love the more technical aspects of growing and refining this wonderful medicine. During the early days of Canadian legalization, I started the blog growdoctorguides.com. As I worked on that passion project, refined my growing skills, and learned more about solventless extracts, my focus shifted from producing beautiful flower to producing beautiful resin.
What’s in your personal hash stash right now?
I harvest the majority of my rosin from outdoor-grown plants – living and being headquartered in Canada, this means growing strains that can thrive in our cold, harsh environment. My favorite seed plug is Sean from Los Gardens – a fellow Ontario, Canada breeder. His genetics are selected for solventless hash yield and resilience to powdery mildew, which works well with our wet and cold fall harvest seasons. His Platinum Pie strain, a beautiful fruit-gas hybrid that hits almost every checkmark on the list, is my current go-to.
How did that passion for smoking hash snowball into creating your own solventless extraction equipment?
I didn’t love any of the solventless equipment already on the market. They were mostly using bottom agitation, which damages trichomes. So, I set out to make an extraction machine that would agitate from the top to mimic hand paddling. I partnered with a team of fabricators and engineers who had been building breweries and automated food processing systems for over 25 years. I introduced them to solventless extraction, we teamed up, and Hashtek was created out of our shared love for craft beer and craft cannabis.
Do you have a guiding philosophy at Hashtek?
Our philosophy is that making hash should be an enjoyable experience. As extractors ourselves, we truly love making hash, and we want our customers to feel the same way when they’re using our equipment. So, every design decision we make is totally customer-centric.
One example of this is when we had to figure out how the equipment would move trichome-rich water during extraction. You have two options when doing this: gravity draining or a pneumatic pump. Pneumatic pumps are incredibly loud – think of the sound of your mechanic using air tools – so this option was unacceptable in our eyes. That amount of noise violated our first design principle of making equipment that creates an enjoyable experience for the hash maker. So instead, every single Hashtek ice water extraction system is designed to work via a gravity drain with an agitation tank that is always raised up – allowing for the silent and peaceful draining of trichome-rich water to the collection vessel.
How can solventless products be a competitive advantage for craft producers?
Shortly after Canada legalized cannabis, we saw the retail price of distillate drop from $45,000/kg to $4,000/kg. This over 10x loss sent financial plans into a tailspin – all due to the fact that distillate is a commodity that can be produced from any quality of input material. Three-year-old cannabis sitting dry and terpene-less in a vault can be used to produce the same quality distillate as fresh craft material. Solventless is the complete opposite because the entire supply chain must be tightly controlled to produce a high-quality product. Old material can’t be used because the trichome heads will be dried like raisins and the plant terpenes will have volatilized a long time ago.
When customers come to us and ask how they can compete against large MSOs (multi-state operators), our answer is a finely curated menu of solventless products. Extremely large operators often struggle to achieve the quality that craft producers with a good program can reliably achieve. If you’re an extractor in a David vs Goliath battle, solventless products are going to be your path to profitability and sustainable success.
Speaking of quality craft producers, how important is it to build relationships with the hash makers using your equipment in their cold rooms?
Building relationships with hash makers is what got us to where we are today. We have an expression at Hashtek that goes along the lines of “when makers speak, we listen.” Some of our users include industry leaders like Ras Kaya Paul of PNW Roots – winner of 1st and 2nd place in the Melts category of Melting of the Heads Bellingham 2022 – and Ben McCabe – winner of 1st place Ice Water Hash at Legends of Hashish 2020 and 2nd place Solventless Rosin at Emerald Cup 2020. Although we have backgrounds in extraction and processing, the hash makers using our equipment day in and day out are often the ones that guide our most innovative design features.
The Hashtek brand sponsors some national events and competitions like the ones you just mentioned – how your presence there has helped you build the Hashtek brand?
Our big thing is we love giving back to the hash community. We would rather spend the same amount of advertising dollars for an underground event with 120 hash makers than on a corporate event with 1,200 executives. In 2022, we were at Melting of the Heads in Washington and Legends of Hashish II in LA, and just did Melting of the Heads NYC in January. Craft producers make the products we enjoy and that is who we support and will continue to support, end of story.
Besides continuing to give back to the hash community, what else can we expect from you and the Hashtek brand in the future?
We have a couple of really fun projects in the pipeline. The first is a novel de-watering system, and we expect this machine will revolutionize the collection process. The second is a very cool glycol water chilling system. Instead of wrapping the agitation tank with a glycol jacket as is standard practice in the industry, this system will cool water on demand during the recirculation process instead. I can’t give too much away there…
Katherine is a cannabis writer, branding specialist, and the Chief Marketing & Operations Officer of Malek’s Premium Cannabis, a small-batch Colorado cultivator focused on flavor-first genetics.
Follow on social media: @katadellic @hashtek.ca
Katherine Wolf is an independent writer and the Chief Marketing Officer of Malek's Premium Cannabis - a boutique cannabis brand based in Denver, Colorado. Passionate about glass, hash, and a good latte.