The prohibition of cannabis can be traced back to 1913, when the first states began to criminalize the plant in response to immigration concerns. In the century that followed, the criminalization and demonization of cannabis sent all operations underground. Growing and selling were conducted in secrecy, and without the benefit of technological advancements. Over the past decade, as legalization and decriminalization efforts succeed in many states and as cannabis consumers come to expect a higher quality product, the once-secret cannabis industry has been able to step into the light.
The emerging industry is now in a position to take advantage of the many technological advancements that can help it truly bloom. New technologies allow for the automation and streamlining of many cannabis processes. From production planning and fertigation, to post processing and extraction, to data collection and dispensary operations, such opportunities to modernize and automate are the future of the industry. The adoption of technology will allow operators to optimize the production of cannabis and maximize its potential to propel cannabis into a mainstream consumer good.
How Can Technology Alter the Production of Cannabis?
Legal or not, efficient farming of cannabis has long been essential in creating the quality products that consumers crave. Technology has the potential to optimize all aspects of the cultivation process. New automation methods can better control the cultivation environment, monitoring vapor pressure, lighting conditions, nutrients, water needs, the pH of the soil, and more. Such control is accomplished by innovations such as LED lighting, cultivation software and AI/machine learning. Not only can these innovations facilitate healthy and productive plants, but they also reduce resource consumption. Cannabis cultivation has a reputation for hogging resources, but the efficiency that automation facilitates can cut down on waste and allow for a more sustainable and viable industry.
Post Processing / Extraction
Significant strides have been made in the post processing of cannabis as well. Consumer tastes have grown more refined in recent years, and many modern consumers are looking for more than just flower. With state-of-the art equipment, companies can create tinctures, vape cartridge oil, shatter, live resin, diamonds and hash. Extraction methods widely used today include ethanol extraction, CO2 extraction, hydrocarbon extraction and solventless extraction. Which method to use depends on your starting material and the end products desired.
Ethanol extraction is great for isolating specific terpenes and cannabinoids like CBD or THC in higher quantities. Hydrocarbon extraction helps maintain the original flavors of the strain of flower used, making it a wonderful option for strain-specific live resins or shatter. Solventless extraction equipment can transform high-quality flower into the highest-quality full-melt hash.
Innovation Launching Cannabis into the Mainstream
Right now, we are seeing several technological innovations that are helping bring cannabis to a wider audience:
Data Collection Allows for Greater Personalization of Products
Through machine learning, operators are able to analyze market data in ways that make product customization a reality. As we know, every individual has a different physiological makeup. This means that different cannabis strains and cultivars affect everyone differently. With the benefits of modern pharmacogenetics we can start aligning individuals’ unique biochemistry with the most impactful chemical compounds and treatments. This allows for proper dosage and a more consistent experience all around.
Apps and E-Commerce Streamline Retail
Apps and e-commerce are major methods consumers use to research, shop for and order delivery of their favorite mainstream products. Now, cannabis does not have to hide from the internet. Apps and websites are key components to supporting mainstream consumer demand for cannabis. Options like field-to-dispensary tracking will keep consumers informed and educated while improving the connection between producers and consumers. E-commerce allows businesses to thrive and lets consumers purchase cannabis products through a company’s app without fear or complications.
Technology will Bolster the Cannabis Industry in the 21st Century
A century of criminalization has held the cannabis industry back in many ways, and limited access to technology has hindered the industry more than people realize. Automation, AI and Machine learning are reshaping best practices even as I write this article. Data and technology are poised to take the industry to new heights as the key to ushering in affordable, safe, consistent cannabis to consumers. For growers, automation will help them spend more time refining their practice and perfecting their strains, and less time mitigating problems. Ultimately, the use of technology in cannabis will benefit the consumer the most, improving access to high-quality products and delivering consistent experiences. Cannabis companies that want to stay competitive in the 21st century must adapt and use technology to meet the ever-increasing demands of cannabis consumers.