AI, Automation, and Robotics in Cannabis

by | Nov 17, 2020

Written by Deborah Agboola

It is no news that the cannabis industry has been driving extensive developments to curb the difficulties in the niche and meet the modifications in legislation governing their sale and cultivation. With the world automating every space, the cannabis industry is not left out in this movement. Several investors are already pouring billions of dollars into the sector, especially in the artificial intelligence space, integrating it into the horticulture and retail categories.

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence

The AI concept was born from a question posed by the mathematician Alan Turing, “Can machines think?” Since its inception, AI technology has evolved and is rapidly merging into our lives and businesses.

Artificial intelligence is a field in computer science that involves creating machines capable of performing tasks that require human intelligence. There are several branches to this niche, with the most significant being the machine learning/deep learning sect, which has shown prime advancements and has created a paradigm shift in every sector since its integration.

Technology Controlled Systems Start with Basic Economics

According to Economics, every society faces three primary challenges in the struggle to meet demands and eliminate scarcity. They are:

  1. What to produce,
  2. How to produce,
  3. And, for whom to produce

Without considering these before initiating the production chain, the probability of attaining maximum profit is relatively low; hence, the positioning of experts at strategic positions in industries to conduct critical marketing analysis. 

However, regardless of how competent the professionals are, or how careful analyses are conducted, human error remains a factor in these events; thus, using artificial intelligence is invaluable. Scaling down the discipline to the cannabis industry, its applications can be sub-categorized into the following:

Risk Reduction

As earlier stated, accurate market and trade forecasts are the prime touchstones in any sector’s arsenal, guiding investors and companies to making the most suitable decisions to guarantee market success. By predicting fluctuations and tracking flow patterns using machine learning algorithms, plus data mining of social media mentions like #cannabis, high-risk zones are easily detectable and avoidable.

The Science of Service

The importance of personalized service in the retail industry cannot be overemphasized because regardless of what kind of shopper the patrons are, they appreciate an efficient and personalized shopping experience. Hence, with AI, companies are offered a quicker yet efficient avenue to amass and process relevant statistical data, feedback, and on-site inputs to enhance customer engagement in their services and boost sales.

Better Safety Protocols

In light of the current global crisis, industries are striving to meet up with the changes made mandatory by the dire situation, such as social and physical distancing, with features like easy check-out systems. This ingenious innovation enables patrons to make purchases by fast-tracking the shopping process through carefully designed technology, thereby presenting a win-win situation for both the entrepreneur and customers.

Robotic Delivery of Marijuana Products

The level to which automating the cannabis industry will rise is almost inconceivable, but it is rising quickly with certain reforms and inclusions. The evolution of delivery systems from the former routes to today’s high-tech systems is taking the retail industry to a whole new level. Though it remains in the infantile stage, many industries like Amazon already have robotic deliveries in place. This system, which includes the use of drones, is especially applicable to the cannabis industry due to the light mass of the material, efficiency of delivery, not to mention the minimization of human contact.

However, the risks involved with automated devices in deliveries include but are not limited to; the possibility of damage or malfunctions while in operation and hijacking of delivery bots, which is of an even higher probability in regions where the recreational use of cannabis is not permitted yet. Hence, unless a solution to these issues can be developed, automated delivery systems remain an emerging innovation.

Could There Be a Downside?

Though the idea of “faster, better, and more profitable” seems like quite the catch, what would the introduction and full integration of artificial intelligence mean for the cannabis industry on the adverse end? Is there a reason(s) why this idea should be put under careful consideration? What would the automation of the industry mean for those working in the industry? What would it mean for the sector as a whole?

Understanding the federal status of cannabis in the country has made governing the niche a bit complex. Making radical moves in the system would require taking optimum care and precision, as even the slightest error can place related companies and businesses in a high-risk position of garnering huge losses and even losing their cannabis license.

Next, consider the industry's workers: like every other industry affected by global digitalization, there is a high possibility of an increased job displacement caused by the replacement of humans with bots. Furthermore, it plays an integral role in determining the nation's gross domestic product (GDP).

Other consequences of this transition include the high cost of maintaining and operating frontier technologies, the inflexibility of operations, as bots cannot function beyond their programming.

Nevertheless, despite realizing the adverse effects of artificial intelligence on the cannabis industry and economic sector, it is still probably not the best choice to avoid it altogether, neither is it a better choice to embrace it, which then brings us to yet another question “Can the industry find a balance between technology and natural processes?”