Similar to any industry, innovation and technology are driving the cannabis industry to new heights. However, breaking into the cannabis industry with untested, unproven technology can be difficult for many ancillary entities. Unfortunately, some innovators, both foreign and domestic, are challenged by the legality of cannabis and limited in their research efforts.
Creating technology in a vacuum also has its drawbacks. While many technologies are built with improving a particular aspect of the cultivation process, rarely are the various technologies actually tested together, as a system, in a full production setting.
To solve this problem and seek out the future of cannabis cultivation, Sente Foundry, LLC, a Chicago-based startup investment, scouting, and innovation platform, is teaming up with GrowRay Lighting Technologies, out of Boulder, Colorado to seek the best of the best in Indoor Agriculture Innovation with their AgTech Investment Program.
Cannabis Tech spoke with Ash Ganley, CEO of GrowRay, and Gerod Carfantan, COO of Sente Foundry, LLC, about the mission behind this partnership and innovation incubator program.
The Problem with Technology
Everyone loves technology… when it works. Today, in a world where integration between systems is critical, it isn’t always foolproof. Ensuring that individual cultivation systems work together to produce the most profitable crop can be a challenge for growers.
On the other hand, for technology companies, getting ‘real-world’ data and testing with a multi-state operator in the cannabis industry is next to impossible. Technology developers often rely on small test plots or personal grow rooms to assess their product development, as gaining access to an MSO is challenging.
GrowRay and Sente are hoping to help solve this problem and provide a sandbox where leading-edge technology visionaries can put their skills to the test and attract the right investors.
“We love cannabis because it is a growing space with a big gap that technology can fill. With the inconsistencies across different states, we think there’s a huge opportunity here,” Carfantan elaborated.
By combining technology and processes, along with the stability of an indoor environment, Carfantan imagines cannabis cultivation as a service with a platform based on technology. He reminds us that while lighting is undoubtedly important, it’s just one of many factors critical to growing a valuable crop.
“That’s kind of what we saw GrowRay as, the first step toward completing the picture with other technologies that can work synergistically together,” he added.
Declining Profit Margins and Environmental Concerns
Ganley reminds that the cannabis industry has shifted drastically, and cannabis prices and profit margins have slipped, putting pressure on growers to change their approach. “Early on, there was enough margin in the space, you could hide a lot of bad business practices, like disintegrated technology that wasn’t working optimally, just by the fact you’re making money… but that’s all changed now,” Ganley warns.
Looking outward to states like Illinois, Massachusetts, and California, Ganley predicts more legislation concerning energy caps based on the square footage of the facility. He said, “This is forcing growers to adopt efficiency tech whether they want to or not.”
He also points out, “Nobody is going to be growing for high costs anymore and expect to sustain themselves, profitability-wise.”
The Solution Lies in Global Collaboration
The AgTech Investment Program intends to bring companies together with the appropriate investors to help cultivation technology companies launch their ideas in a structured six-week plan developed by Sente. After collecting the applications, Carfantan and Ganley will work together to select ten companies for mentorship, who will then enter into a contracting period with the group. Then on Monday, October 26th, they’ll hold a virtual kick-off event to introduce the companies to investors.
Over the course of the six-week program, companies will have the opportunity to work with Sente for business evaluations, developing their business model, and more through a series of professional mentor meetings.
“Starting in October, we’ll have eight to ten companies, that we can evaluate their potential as a business, as well as the potential of their technology alongside GrowRay,” Carfantan explained.
Ganley added, “We’re looking for technologies that work together in a cannabis grow. We’re really curious about how different ancillary tech will actually perform when working in tandem with others – from a whole systems perspective.”
Who Should Apply
All cannabis technology startups in the early phases of indoor agriculture should be encouraged to apply, particularly in the areas of Lighting Tech, Automation, Computer Vision, Operations Software, Fertigation Tech, Plant Data Technologies, Pest Control, and Workflow Management.
The event and entire six-week program are virtual, so interested participants can apply from anywhere in the world. However, the deadline is approaching quickly! Submit your application by August 31st on Sente’s website: https://www.sente.link/indoor-agtech