The Rise of Automation in Cannabis Cultivation
The days of “mom-and-pop shop”, small cannabis operations with weed grown in-house are quickly fading from the legal landscape. The industry continues demonstrating to the world that, despite legal status, cannabis is not immune to the wave of automation we’ve been seeing in recent years; and as such, the industry has even developed its own version of technology known as “cannatech”. The integration of cannatech in the age-old world of cannabis is resulting in cutting-edge technologies that impact nearly every aspect of the industry, including cultivation.
Regardless of how or why, the trend of doing things for oneself seems as if it’s here to stay. Whether you’re growing your own cannabis or mushrooms, making infused products, or doing your own extractions, it’s important to have the right equipment to make the process as simple and convenient as possible, and automated cannabis cultivation systems are making this easier than ever. Remember to follow 50 Shades of Green on Twitter (@HempNewsNow1) for more articles like this one and exclusive deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and more! Also save big on HHC-O, Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP & HHC products.
With all the craziness going on in the world (global pandemic, on-and-off lockdowns, obscene inflation, and political and cultural tensions reaching a max), it’s no surprise that a growing number of people are considering the benefits of being more self-sufficient. According to various data sources, an estimated 31.9 million U.S. households had a home vegetable garden in 2019. That number increased by 36 percent in 2020 and has continued growing throughout 2021.
Overall, ranching, homesteading, and small backyard gardens are becoming more commonplace. In addition to produce, a growing number of Americans are raising chickens as well. A survey from the American Pet Producers Association found that in 2018, roughly 10 million U.S. households owned chickens. By 2020, that number had jumped to around 13 million. And these are just people who actually answered the surveys and reported owning chickens. I have both chickens and ducks and no data company is aware of this, so I assume many other poultry owners are also unaccounted for.
All this to say, the move toward self-sufficiency is evident, and with that comes an influx of people looking to grow their own weed as well. This is probably one of the biggest reasons that cannabis is not yet legal at the federal level – because if it is legal, more people will grow their own. And if people are growing it, they’re not buying it. And if they’re not buying it, the government won’t rake in all those precious tax dollars they were hoping for.
What is the ‘Internet of Things’?
Indisputably, the internet has changed the world and the way we do everything – from running our businesses to how we handle day-to-day tasks. The possibility of exchanging data on such a large scale has revolutionized countless industries and transformed society into the most fast-paced technological environment that has ever existed.
Welcome to the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the extension of internet connectivity in everyday objects that weren’t typically associated with Wi-Fi, such as refrigerators, cars, wristwatches, toothbrushes; and well, you get the point, pretty much everything. These days, there are over 6 billion IoT devices in the world.
These IoT devices can interact with others via the internet, and they can be monitored and controlled remotely. It’s one of the fastest growing industries globally, with more and more IoT-capable devices being developed daily. Naturally, this has major implications for both, the cannabis and agricultural sectors. Cultivators, manufactures, doctors, retailers, CEOs, and even consumers have benefited tremendously from the use of these products.
IoT and cannabis cultivation
Historically, it has been somewhat challenging to set up your own indoor grow room. There are many elements at play that need to be thoroughly considered including space, temperature, lighting, watering, and humidity. Not only that, but indoor grows require daily monitoring to keep track of growth and progress, and that just isn’t feasible for everyone.
Enter IoT with devices such as Seedo, Cloudponics, Leaf, and many others. These companies utilize modern technology to offer consumers fully automated growing stations that can be monitored from anywhere that has internet connectivity. At the top end of automation, you will simply need to program your system it and will grow your cannabis for you, entirely on its own.
“The intersection of cannabis cultivation and IoT will have a great impact on everyday consumers, especially those who consume cannabis medicinally,” explained Nicolas Ruiz, Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer of Cloudponics. “People will have the ability to control the quality and quantity of their cannabis without the fear of pesticides, sales taxes, or reliance on brick-and-mortar dispensaries.”
But this isn’t just for the modest home grower, large-scale operations are also taking advantage of these new innovations to improve their crop output and meet a continuously increasing demand for high quality flower. For instance, many growers are retrofitting their farms with agricultural sensors and connected farming systems that allow them to control their cannabis growing environments remotely from their smartphones, tablets, and computers.
What’s even better is that these systems are storing data, so the longer they run, the more they can use predictive insights to help you increase yields, crop resiliency and energy efficiency. Basically, they learn more about your personal cultivation needs with each cycle, to create a more tailored growing experience every time. Not to mention all the stored data tracking the growth of the plant from seed to harvest that is required for licensing, making the automated systems more multi-faceted than many people realize.
How it works
For reference here, let’s take a look at Seedo, an Israeli company I’ve had the pleasure of working with a few years ago. The Seedo Grow Box was created to allow people the opportunity to use technology and software for hands-free growing of safe, high-quality cannabis.
According to the company’s CEO, Zohar Levy, “We developed a device that is a kind of box that is placed in the customer’s home and connected to the Internet. The box contains sensors, including a camera that takes pictures of the plant, as well as software, and through which it controls conditions under which the plant grows completely automatically without any intervention from the customer. There is no need for pesticides, the computerized management of the tumor saves water, and the tower only has to change from time to time a CO2 balloon, a water filter, an air filter and fertilizers.”
So, what exactly comes in the Seedo box? It comes equipped with an air filter, pack of two CO2 bottles, two bottles of liquid nitrogen, a growing tray that holds up to 5 plants, water filter, an internal camera for HD live stream monitoring, a mobile app for both android and iOS, and a customer support line that you can contact for advice and growing tips. The box was created with cannabis in mind, but it can also be used to grow fruits and veggies, fresh herbs, flowers, and plant clones.
Why this all matters
Ultimately, consumer convenience and maximized yields/profits are the core of these inventions. Despite a somewhat high initial investment for one of these systems, if you can swing it, it will definitely save you money in the long run. Plus, with taxes and prices of cannabis going up anyway, a growing number of consumers who are being priced out of the market are considering home grow-ops for their own needs.
Safety is also another major factor here. As cannabis brands continue to try and find their footing when it comes to branding, packaging, and marketing, many consumers may feel hesitant and suspicious about what they’re getting. How accurate is the label on that bag? What about the recent influx of Hop Latent Viroid infections? And other reports of contamination and mislabeling? These issues are common in cannabis and most other industries that we deal with (pharma and food are notorious here).
On the flip side, what about the job market? At the moment, cannabis industry employment is on the rise; and that trend can certainly continue upwards for higher-end careers. But just like any other industry, lower-end cannabis jobs are at the mercy of automation and are slowly being replaced by robots, AI, the IoT, and other modern technologies.
And what happens when something inevitably goes wrong with the technology and the “grower”, or in this case the person controlling the grow box, has minimal real-life cultivation experience and has no idea how to troubleshoot the problem? Well, then they would risk losing an entire plant, or crop, and nobody wants that.
These benefits and dilemmas are all pretty run-of-the-mill when it comes to any new technology. It takes some time to figure out where everything is going, how it fits into the industry that it’s intended for, and how to work out all the kinks for things to be fully operational. It’s a process, but one that we are growing more accustomed with as a society.
Final thoughts on automated cannabis cultivation
As far as automation goes, it’s just something that we need to learn to adapt with. In many aspects, technology has already improved our lives in numerous ways and it’s exciting to see how this can all be applied to the cannabis industry. I’m a firm believer that there are some areas where human interaction just can’t be replaced by AI, but certain jobs will continue to be outsourced to the IoT. By 2025, we’ll see a lot more automation throughout many sectors of the cannabis industry.