Four ways technological innovation is driving the cannabis industry forward
Cannabis is legal in Canada and that means licensed producers are finally in “all out” grow mode. Cannabis production these days has come a long way from plants growing outside under the sun to high-tech indoor grow operations that are using updated technology to produce amazing pot in a controlled and consistent manner.
However, when compared to other crops such as corn, soy or wheat, cannabis production is still in its infancy. With legalization, there has been a shift to developing advancements in cannabis tech to help all aspects of the industry’s supply chain – from breeding and genetics to growing and processing, producing extracts and product testing. Slowly but surely, we’re seeing innovations creep into all parts of the industry to provide many benefits and advantages to help companies succeed.
Let’s take a look at four ways that technology innovation is driving the cannabis industry forwards.
Growing Cannabis with Aeroponics
Licensed Producers are always looking for an advantage to produce more and better crops for their clients. INDIVA Ltd. is no stranger to progress as the company has added multiple innovations into its current operations. One area of advancement that INDIVA has embraced is aeroponics.
Growing great cannabis has always been about consistency or removing variables that can lead to fluctuating crop quality. Hydroponics has long been the most advanced and scientific way to grow cannabis, until now, as aeroponics is poised to take over. Aeroponics offers the most controlled growing environment possible by growing cannabis plants in air or environments filled with mist. These environments are soil or aggregate free and thus remove many variables that have been difficult to control. Plants are suspended in a base gripping their stems, which allows the roots to dangle below.
In this way, aeroponics is similar to the well-known growing method hydroponics, but instead of being submerged in water, the roots are continuously sprayed with a nutrient-rich mist solution. An aeroponic system provides an enclosed air, water, and nutrient ecosystem which promotes rapid plant growth and the ultimate in control over growing variable. As an example, plants develop full root systems in one-third of the time.
Far from the typical grow in a greenhouse, using an aeroponic environment offers several advantages:
- Conservation of water and energy
- Less maintenance requirement
- Less labor-intensive process
- Constant exposure to oxygen promotes faster and disease-free plant growth
- Nutrient mist is sterilized to prevent plant diseases
- Systems are easy to clean and replace plants
For licensed producers, this means a simple, cost-effective method to drastically improve the growth, survival and maturation rates of plants with the added benefit of preventing plant disease.
Canadian based company TripleGreenEnergy has introduced a revolutionary compost digester named the “BioRoter”. It’s the same one that Licensed Producer INDIVA Ltd. has been using for over a year. A 34ft BioRoter sits working at their grow facility in London, ON and the results are outstanding.
Part of the regulations licensed producers are required to follow is that all organic waste (plant material) be denatured before leaving the facility. In the past, this plant waste has been burned or mixed with water and cat litter to break down, methods that are not environmentally friendly, especially not at the large scale at which LP’s produce organic waste.
Enter the BioRoter to save the day! The BioRoter is essentially a large composter that uses heat and enzymes to process organic waste into high-quality compost in significantly less time than other methods. The end result is high-quality compost that can be reused for growing or, as in INDIVA’s case, donated to local farms to help them grow their produce. The process is environmentally friendly and keeps growers in adherence with denaturing regulations.
Automated Crop Logistics
The sheer size of the greenhouses used by Licensed Producers to meet cannabis demand is mind-boggling and presents the logistical problem of how to manage these massive grow spaces efficiently.
The way into the future is automation and robotics, a technology that is already being utilized by many cutting-edge LPs. Most growers will have the lighting, environmental controls and feeding cycles automated to ensure adherence to schedule and product quality. Constant human interaction is no longer necessary as algorithms and sensor systems are able to monitor, adjust and respond to changing growing conditions. Of course, these systems are monitored, modified and manipulated by human growers who are also required to inspect plants and adjust the automated systems accordingly.
Robotics is also joining the party and lending a helping hand, or ten. Companies like Niao have already proven success with robotics adapted to work in a vineyard and are now turning their attention to the booming cannabis industry. From weeding, turning the soil, and condition monitoring – robotics can help reduce the requirement for human workers and aid in producing repeatable, high-quality cannabis crops at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional growing techniques.
Efficiency in Product Testing
One of the pillars of cannabis legalization is regulation and testing. All cannabis sold to the public must be lab tested and pass all regulations to be considered safe for consumption. Cannabis is tested for potency, residual solvents, residual pesticides, processing chemicals, and microbials. With the high demand for cannabis, there has been a shortage of lab facilities able to process the large volumes that Licensed Producers are sending their way. This overflow is creating a bottleneck in the delivery process and hampering the industry’s ability to serve its customers.
Luckily there are innovations arriving to help speed up the process. One of these comes in the form of laboratory information management systems (LIMS) developed by LabVantage Cannabis. This system uses computational information to reduce the time, cost, effort, and risk or testing cannabis and makes the process run more smoothly. LIMS solutions aren’t new but have just now been configured for cannabis testing labs and have built-in flexibility to adjust to shifting regulations.
The industry is still in its infancy and will continue to be a hotbed of innovation across the entire space. Such big business means that even small innovations can lead to huge cost savings, meaning that savvy growers will continue to push the limits of traditional growing methods looking for every extra ounce of success.
Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down in the comments.
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