Near InfraRed (NIR) spectroscopy is an analytical technique using near-infrared radiation emissions to analyze samples for compositional or characteristic traits. The technology was commercialized back in the 1970s and since then has become popular for the analysis of food, agricultural, pharmaceutical, and chemical products. Both the FDA and European Medicines Agency have published guidelines for the use of NIR spectroscopy by the pharmaceutical industry.

NIR spectroscopy is a sensible solution for in-house testing. It allows for performing a fast and non-destructive test, with the possibility of reagent free analysis that provides useful information requiring minimal or no sample preparation. Unsurprisingly, it is a widely used forensic tool by law enforcement agencies for analyzing samples in the field without evidence tampering or destruction.

Cannabis professionals must adopt In-House Testing protocols in order to make the right business decisions, from determining the optimal harvest time to making sure they do not overpay for biomass. NIR spectroscopy is ideal for this because it is easy-to-use, affordable, fast, accurate, and has a proven track-record. No wonder the FDA demonstrates its use for Real Time Release Testing in the pharmaceutical industry.

It is only a matter of time before In-House Testing becomes common practice across the cannabis and hemp supply chains and along with it NIR spectroscopy will be one of the main analytical techniques used.

No Two Cannabis Flowers are the Same and Trichomes are Not Spread Equal
Image analysis by GemmaCert of trichome spread (in yellow)

Images Analysis by GemmaCert of Trichome Spread in Cannabis Flowers

Selecting a NIR spectroscopy solution:

Before investing in a NIR spectroscopy solution for your cannabis or hemp business make sure:

  1. It can handle the natural variance of cannabis samples. Any solution limited to one reading on the sample surface is as good as guessing. The result you get may only be accurate for the specific point scanned rather than being representative for the entire sample.
  2. Finally, make sure the solution is truly non-destructive. Grinding a sample destroys sample efficacy and value.
  3. To make life easier and less costly, opt for a NIR solution with automated calibration, instead of paying for an external calibration service every few hundred tests.
  4. The solution improves over time with over-the-air updates as the reference database grows and the analytical algorithms improve.
  5. The reference database was collected at an ISO 17025 certified cannabis testing laboratory using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC).
  6. The reference database applied consists of tens of thousands, not hundreds, of datasets from samples collected worldwide.
  7. If you are a hemp grower, make sure the solution can test at least as low as the legal threshold of 0.3% for Total THC.