Colombia 2020 | HEALTH | INTERVIEW

FCM seeks to control the entire production chain—sowing, production, transformation, research, and export—to ensure full traceability.

Felipe Velásquez

Felipe Velásquez was with Abbott Laboratories for 10 years, holding several positions in finance and commercial operations in four continents. He holds an MBA from DePaul University and an engineering degree from Universidad EAFIT. He has over 20 years of experience in business related to healthcare and the proven ability to execute in four continents. Velásquez has held senior management roles in operations, finance, acquisitions, and sales, and has successfully led the global expansion strategies for two leading healthcare organizations.

New companies are entering the medical cannabis business all the time. How does FCM differ from other companies?
We are highly focused on providing high-quality extracts for pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and nutritional companies, while maintaining an excellent relationship with our customers and off-takers by having a solid understanding of their needs in terms of what product to deliver and launch in the desired market. We have the central ingredients—CBD, THC, CBN, and CBG—for any final products for consumers.

How does FGM Global seek to differentiate itself to improve its position in the market?
In the supply of cannabis extracts, we define quality as the consistency of the supply of a product with specifications expected by the client, free of heavy metals, pesticides, or any component other than expected, satisfying the client's expectations. All these parameters should be based as much as possible on complying with the methodologies given in European or Canadian pharmacopoeias, among others. Hence, one of the promises of this industry is that cannabis extracts are as natural as possible. It is important to know that quality management is the set of planned and systematic actions to provide confidence considering all those aspects have an impact on the product's quality and service. Hence, we focus on implementing a quality culture with all members of the company and close friends, achieving a generalized commitment to quality practices, and process improvement at all hierarchical levels.

What have been your efforts to achieve that quality and consistency in your products?
This quality is achieved through a rigorous and standardized quality process at every step from seed, propagation and cultivation, cutting, drying, extraction, refinement, and packaging. These standardized processes are internationally recognized under ISO standards, Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Good Laboratory Practices (GLP), and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

What efforts have you made to achieve this quality and consistency, and what are your processes to strengthen the agricultural part?
When it comes to plant growth, there is an entire standardized process to ensure they are healthy. Within the cultivation process, it is important to highlight the GLOBAL GAP, which allows us to trace and control the production chain at all times. We establish control parameters such as good collection practices, the correct use of personal protection elements, and information records of the plants 24/7 in order to guarantee safety and avoid cross contamination throughout the whole process. On top of this, we make sure to implement processes of evaluation and verification of the behavior of our varieties; this is how it all starts, from the rigorous selection of those varieties with characteristics of commercial and agricultural importance, adaptability to the tropics, and yield. Prior to the establishment of the crop, it is necessary to verify all those elements that are in contact with the plant and that can intervene with its development, such as high levels of heavy metals and pesticides, harmful microorganisms, or foreign elements. Subsequently, during the establishment and growth of the crop, the environmental, microbiological, and nutritional conditions to which the plants are exposed are monitored with the aim of detecting changes that may affect the cannabinoid content of the plants or their health.

How does FCM Global achieve quality of the final product?
One of the main items within the quality management system is to establish a program for cleaning and disinfecting areas, equipment, and utensils, since the quality of the product depends on the hygiene present in any implement, personnel, or related area in the flow process. Cleaning is the absence of dirt, and its purpose is to reduce or kill microorganisms that can contaminate products and cause deterioration. Disinfecting, meanwhile, can be defined as partly eliminating the number of bacteria found in an environment or surface, so that it is not harmful to people and products. The main objective is to establish guidelines that avoid cross-contamination and ensure the safety of the product, environment, facilities, and personnel.