High-tech odor-abatement system changes airborne terpenes’ chemistry so new compounds don’t register as smells in human brains. What’s the science? Can it neutralize nose-holding NIMBYs?

By Ed Murrieta 

Speeding blasts of essential oil vapors — basically, 106-mph high-tech air fresheners that change the fundamental chemistry of odor-producing terpenes overwhelming senses and sensibilities of people living near cannabis farms — could settle a big stink in California, where odiferous agriculture meets nose-holding NIMBYs.

But, first, like vaccines and deodorant, everyone’s got to use the odor-neutralizing technology for the widest effect against aromas that smell like dead skunks, or worse, to detractors who call urban-area greenhouse farms “light industrial pharmaceuticals, not agriculture.” 

“I know [it works] because I live right here,” a former flower grower in Santa Barbara County who switched to greenhouse cannabis said of the odor-abatement system that claims to turn airborne terpenes’ aromas stealth in human brains.

Another former flower grower said the vapor curtain that costs $150,000 to install and $15,000 a month to operate rendered cannabis odors emitted from one of his greenhouses all but undetectable. A neighboring greenhouse without the system still stinks, casting a pungent pall over the plant-and-pet-friendly air-freshening efforts of others. 

“If most of us have systems in place, but not all of us do,” the grower said, “we have a problem.”  

Using hardware and software that control industrial agriculture odors — say, the stench of organic compost or waste-holding lagoons — an Indiana company is spraying the air above California cannabis greenhouses with vapors of sage, lemon verbena and other aromatic essential oils that collide with aromatic terpenes to create compounds which don’t register as smells in human brains.

While the high-end industrial air freshener is making strides neutralizing greenhouse odors but not all cannabis NIMBYs, can expensive blasts of natural plant vapors tame powerfully pungent terpenes wafting from 50-acre outdoor cannabis fields? Neighboring grape growers and vintners complain intruding cannabis terpenes’ aromas turn off their customers and taint their sales. 

I’ll report on cannabis-odor abatement in Santa Barbara County:

  • What is the technology and science behind cannabis-odor abatement?
  • Is it worth it for growers?
  • Is it enough for NIMBYs?
  • Will it solve a problem?
  • How do cannabis growers and grape growers and vintners in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties view cannabis-odor issues?