Linking Up With Linked Equipment’s Karl Foust

By Linked Equipment | June 18, 2019

Originally posted by WeCannect:

Linking Up With Linked Equipment’s Karl Foust

The operations manager talks to us about extraction facilities and growing rooms comprised of repurposed shipping containers, working on the Grandview Project, the opportunities and logistical issues that the cannabis industry poses, and his adorable Jack Russell terrier, Tucker.

By Dave Kaplan

What does Linked Equipment do?

We repurpose shipping containers for a variety of different purposes. For the cannabis industry, we build containers into extraction rooms and grow pods, whichever gets a company to market quicker. They can get up and running in as little as 4-6 weeks with our units, depending on what their licensing process is. A traditional build-out takes 4-6 months. Repurposing shipping containers is not a new idea or one that we came up with. There are tiny houses, entire hotels, and even shopping centers comprised of shipping containers out there, but we are one of the only companies applying the concept to the cannabis industry. We have our own facility in Phoenix and build everything on sight, including electric wiring, air conditioning, closed-cell foam insulation, tile floors, and static-free flooring.

Work Day at Linked Equipment

We not only design Buildings such as C1D1 Labs, Vaults, Clean Room Labaratories! We actually build them! Here is a typical day at our shop..

Posted by Converted Containers on Tuesday, May 14, 2019

For whom was Linked Equipment repurposing shipping containers prior to entering the cannabis industry?

We did a lot of work for the military, everything from mobile restrooms to shower facilities that could be used in the field. Aside from that, we built a lot of storage units, portable offices for construction companies, and units for various government projects—mostly parks and recreation departments.

When did Linked Equipment enter the cannabis industry and how did that come about?

I think it was late 2015 or early 2016. We had gotten involved with a couple of people who were asking us, “Could you build this?” or “Could you do that?” Then we had a company out of Washington for whom we built a 4,000 square foot, 22-container extraction facility—maybe you’ve seen photos of it on our website. It’s called “The Grandview Project”. It included everything from freezers to labs to vaults and everything in between. That was a big project for us, one that put us on the map.

What did the team learn from that grand-scale project?

A lot. Because Washington was one of the first states to impose strict regulations, everything had to be built to code. We made some mistakes and had to go back, reconfigure, and rebuild. But we learned from the experience. The logistics of actually building up there was new for us. Typically, we’d build our units here, ship them, and then assemble them at the project site. Building at the project site is something we will probably never do again. We now know to compartmentalize when undergoing a project of that size, i.e. building a section of units here, shipping them, and assembling them on the site, and then returning to our headquarters for the next stage of the construction. Doing it in pieces like that makes the entire process much easier, especially from a quality-control standpoint.

The grow pods are very cool. Was it difficult to take into account all of the individual aspects of a cultivation operation when building the units?

Well, the lighting, humidity, ventilation – stuff like that – is fairly simple. Those details are all supplied by our clients. The harder part is that each grower has their own personality. Like, one guy could think, these are the way the lights have to be and another will think, no, it’s gotta be this or that way. So you’re going to need custom space depending on who’s going to be operating it. Everybody’s different and wants something else, and that’s probably the biggest challenge.

Are a lot of the atmospheric controls of grow pods smart-controlled? Can you control them from outside, from external computers?

Absolutely, if that’s an option somebody wants. There are about three or four smart system options that we’ve worked with, or we could install another one if a client wants to use a different type of software.

Your website says that there’s a lot of unique logistical issues that the cannabis industry presents. What challenges are those?

I think a lot of that has to do with the laws and regulations of each particular state and county/municipality. Certain states may have a particular fire code that they work with, but a fire marshal in one particular county may not go by those rules. You might have a guy that’s trying to get cannabis into the state, and they’re much easier to work with than someone else who’s not. It’s always a challenge in terms of the people we work with. What’s their relationship with the regulators? Are they trying to do everything on the up-and-up? Are they trying to cut corners? We’re trying to build to code so that you’re not going to have problems.

What distinguishes Linked Equipment from its competitors?

We build our units here. Most of our competitors are basically engineering firms that just design the units and then contract other companies to build them. A lot of fabrication is more of a modular design, so I don’t see that as the best way because you really don’t have the quality control in place; you don’t know what the other party is doing. If they build it to the engineered design, that’s fine. But I’ve heard some horror stories about when things don’t go to plan and that can have very expensive repercussions. We test everything here to ensure that our units are fully functional. I think that’s our biggest asset.

What are some of the more unique customizations and order requests that Linked Equipment has received?

Well, the extraction market keeps changing and that results in a lot of customization requests. It used to be CO2 for a while; now the big things are ethanol and butane. And there are so many different types of machines being used, whether it’s for solvent extraction, further purification, or Roto Vape purposes. There’s a company out of Canada called Maratek that’s got a solid-state machine instead of rotovap to process and purify oil after it’s been extracted. It yields a lot more product per hour and is considerably larger than most extraction machines. We have to design around these larger sized machines. Of course, we’ve got certain limitations because of the size of the containers, but they are customizable and it’s crucial that we are able to adjust and adapt to new, emerging technologies.

What are the cost benefits of using a converted shipping container for your cannabis operation?

They can be substantial. You’re talking lead times of 4-6 weeks from the deposit date, compared to lead times of 4-6 months for traditional non-container units. So if somebody can get themselves running faster, they’re going to start generating income faster, providing they’ve got the licenses and everything is in place. Cost-wise, per square foot, our units tend to cost a third less than a traditional build.

What’s the price range for Linked Equipment shipping containers?

We require a 50% deposit up-front, but an average 20-foot extraction room is probably going to cost anywhere from $65,000-$75,000, depending on where it’s going, if it’s in a colder climate, and whether you’ll need to implement heaters or AC. A growing unit, which will probably be smaller, can range from $60,000-$80,000.

What was your perception of cannabis prior to this endeavor?

I’ve always thought the restrictions on cannabis were ridiculous because it has been used for so many different medical applications for thousands of years. That having been said, I’m not a big smoker and I am indifferent about whether cannabis gets legalized for recreational use at the federal level.

What are your duties and responsibilities at Linked Equipment?

Right now, I’m more of a jack-of-all-trades for the company. I help streamline operations, implement procedures and software that will help our business grow, and oversee aspects of sales and marketing. When you’re a small company like we are, everybody has to wear many hats and work on a variety of tasks.

Do you find that sales are the same regardless of the industry, or is it more difficult to sell ancillary services to cannabis companies?

That’s a tough question. They’re two different things. I think that if you’re a born salesperson and you believe in something, you can sell anybody anything. I mean, I don’t suggest you go out and sell something they don’t need. I research what a company wants to do—what machines they have, what type of extraction they’re doing, what would be the best option for them—and then try to give a proposal based on what we think would work for them. If they want to modify our proposals, we are all ears.

What’s next for Linked Equipment? Are there plans to expand into Canada as well as the east coast?

We’re looking at some of the stuff that’s going on in Canada. We’re not too far away from that type of expansion right now. We’re always looking for the types of partnerships that could propel us along. I think Canada is a great market to enter. We would probably look to expand there and on the east coast as more states legalize. And I think that down the road, we’ll be looking at other applications for our shipping containers, such as tiny houses or building projects outside of the cannabis industry.

Are you married? Do you have kids?

Nope. I’m not married. I have a little dog, a Jack Russell-Chihuahua mix named Tucker and he’s the best dog in the world. He’s my only kid.