With legitimacy, cannabis farming has gained access to some of the latest and greatest technological solutions on the market today. Vertical farming and smart controllers may not be ubiquitous yet, but the efficiencies they offer are seriously tempting in this increasingly competitive market.
“I just left a facility where everything that’s growing is 100 percent automated, so people never enter into the room,” said Ted Tanner, founder of agriculture technology company Growlink in Denver, Colorado. “It has positive air pressure, so nothing can come into the room, and no people are going in to introduce anything. That means no contamination and no pesticides.”
In that room, like an increasing number of grow rooms, cannabis is grown in several layers, with plants and lighting stacked atop one another. “This system goes up fifteen layers high, with an elevator and a robot to actually grab the pods, bring them down, and put them on a roller where they can be harvested.”
This kind of automation may seem like a pipe dream from the future, but among some growers, it’s already a reality. MedMen is a cannabis company which operates a grow facility in Sun Valley, California. They manage their 4,100 square feet of canopy space with a fully integrated controller.
“As you increase the technology used, you gain more precision control over the environment, which optimizes output and efficiency,” said the company’s director of Ag Technology and Systems, Damian Solomon. “Systems are required to manage climate, temperature, carbon dioxide, humidity, irrigation and fertilization, lighting, shading control and others.”
In part, the trend is driven by demand for consistent results. Patients want their medicine to work the same every time they take it, while new recreational consumers are trying to judge their reactions to a wide variety of strains and forms of cannabis, and product consistency is important to them as well.
“As multi-state operations expand, consumers will being to expect the same customer experience wherever they are,” said Solomon. “By having a system in place that delivers consistency and uniformity, cultivators can meet those expectations.”
On an industry scale, the cannabis technological impulse has a partner in the farm-to-table movement coming to cities. “I definitely see companies, companies that we’re working with, that really believe in growing food near major populations,” said Tanner. “That’s happening indoors and in greenhouses, putting farms near populated areas so there’s not a lot of traveling.”