Jon Vaught: CEO of Front Range Biosciences

One-on-One with Jon Vaught: CEO of Front Range Biosciences

Each month, BizWest asks a business leader to participate in a question and answer feature to help shed light on a business topic, an industry or add insight to a field of endeavor. This month, Jonathan Vaught, CEO of Front Range Biosciences Inc. with a lab in Lafayette, was asked to participate.

BizWest: Front Range Biosciences is involved in applying genetics and genomics to agriculture, specifically high value crops such as hemp and cannabis. Briefly describe the work that you do.

Jonathan Vaught: Front Range Biosciences focuses on high value crops such as cannabis, hemp, and coffee with the goal of enhancing reliability, efficiency and safety for growers and consumers. We use mainstream agricultural techniques, such as tissue culture propagation, to produce disease-free, pesticide-free rooted cuttings, or clones, for both hemp and marijuana growers. These starter plants, produced as part of our Clean Stock program, minimize crop loss from disease and increase growers’ production efficiency. We’re also building the industry-leading breeding platform for cannabis varieties that have unique and commercially valuable traits for the nutraceutical, recreational and medical markets. This includes production of new varieties in both seed and vegetative forms.

BW: Your work reminds us of Norman Borlaug and the Green Revolution — on steroids, of course. Is that a fair comparison?

JV: The Green Revolution enabled us to feed perhaps a billion more people on planet Earth, so it’s hard to compare yourself to a large movement with such impact. We’re focused on improving the early stages of the supply chain for cannabis and coffee to increase yield, reduce disease and make the lives of farmers and growers less risky and more productive. 

BW: What will be the next big step in development of high value crops, or agriculture in general, as you see it through the lens of bioscience?

JV: The next big step in agriculture is precision agriculture, which is the combination of information technology, automation and imaging technologies to perfectly dial in productivity for the crops that feed the world. It includes precise tailoring of everything from genetics of the crop through marker-assisted breeding, to the microbiome in the soil, to planting and harvesting times, to crop rotation.

BW: I know you’re working to develop the Colorado and California markets for your methods and products. How about other high growth areas for hemp and cannabis, such as Canada or Kentucky or other states?

JV: We see the cannabis market, including both hemp and marijuana, expanding not only throughout the U.S. but also globally.  We are positioning ourselves to take advantage of this market growth and will have an announcement about our next geographic expansion soon. 

BW: What are the regulatory hurdles for your work and what are the solutions?

JV: The regulatory restrictions we face are largely due to outdated federal laws around prohibition of cannabis, which even includes the type of cannabis that doesn’t get you high, also known as hemp. This makes normal business activities such as banking and obtaining insurance or loans challenging, especially for farmers trying to make a living. The 2014 Farm Bill opened the doors for state approval of hemp cultivation and created a booming market, but many state programs are still deemed non-compliant under federal law. A misunderstanding of hemp fuels legislative fears and puts off investors from contributing the capital necessary to expand operations. Overcoming the stigma around hemp involves educating legislators, cultivators and investors about what the crop is and how it can better the country’s economy.

BW: What are your plans for scaling your company?

JV: We’re looking to accelerate our Clean Stock programs with more production capacity in Colorado and California and expand our reach internationally. In addition, we are rapidly expanding our IP development and building out our cannabis breeding with additional facilities and talent.

Each month, BizWest asks a business leader to participate in a question and answer feature to help shed light on a business topic, an industry or add insight to a field of endeavor. This month, Jonathan Vaught, CEO of Front Range Biosciences Inc. with a lab in Lafayette, was asked to participate.

BizWest: Front Range Biosciences is involved in applying genetics and genomics to agriculture, specifically high value crops such as hemp and cannabis. Briefly describe the work that you do.

Jonathan Vaught: Front Range Biosciences focuses on high value crops such as cannabis, hemp, and coffee with the goal of enhancing reliability, efficiency and safety for growers and consumers. We use mainstream agricultural techniques, such as tissue culture propagation, to produce disease-free, pesticide-free rooted cuttings, or clones, for both hemp and marijuana growers. These starter plants, produced as part of our Clean Stock program, minimize crop loss from disease and increase growers’ production efficiency. We’re also building the industry-leading breeding platform for cannabis varieties that have unique and commercially valuable traits for the nutraceutical, recreational and medical markets. This includes production of new varieties in both seed and vegetative forms.

BW: Your work reminds us of Norman Borlaug and the Green Revolution — on steroids, of course. Is that a fair comparison?

JV: The Green Revolution enabled us to feed perhaps a billion more people on planet Earth, so it’s hard to compare yourself to a large…