Discover how technology is revolutionizing commercial cannabis production, from pre-cultivation micropropagation to cultivation, harvesting, processing, testing, and retail sales. Explore the various technologies used by growers to increase yields, improve quality, and comply with regulations.
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Cannabis cultivation is a complex and delicate process that requires specialized equipment and knowledge. Commercial cannabis growers must be familiar with the various stages of the plant’s life cycle and the specific needs of each stage to produce a high-quality product. Cultivators need to thoroughly understand the different cannabis cultivars and their individual requirements. To ensure a successful, quality crop, commercial growers must pay close attention to the details of their operation.
Regardless of the stage of cultivation, from concept to consumer, technologies and specialized equipment help growers improve quality, increase yields, and differentiate their products. Let’s look at the technologies used in the various stages of commercial cannabis production.
Commercial Cannabis Pre-Cultivation
Before a seed or a clone is ever put in the ground for commercial purposes, an extensive amount of science and technology is used to ensure the genetic integrity of that particular plant.
Micropropagation is a process where plant tissue is cultured in a controlled environment to produce new plants. This process can create clones of a plant genetically identical to the parent plant. Micropropagation is often used in agriculture and horticulture to mass-produce plants resistant to pests and diseases.
Due to the high demand for cannabis, growers are always looking for ways to increase their yield. Micropropagation is one way growers can create more plants in a shorter time. In addition, micropropagation can be used to create clones of a plant, which can be sold as genetically identical “sister” plants.
When micropropagating cannabis, it is essential to use sterile techniques to prevent the spread of diseases. Cannabis plants are susceptible to many pathogens, so it is crucial to maintain a clean growing environment. In addition, it is important to use healthy plant material for micropropagation. Plants that are stressed or unhealthy are more likely to produce offspring that are also stressed or unhealthy.
Several companies offer micropropagation services for cannabis growers. These companies have the experience and expertise necessary to produce high-quality plants. In addition, many of these companies offer genetic IP (intellectual property) services. This means they can help growers create unique cannabis cultivars that patents or trademarks can protect.
Commercial Cannabis Cultivation
When growing cannabis, especially indoors, cultivators must use a wide range of technology solutions to emulate the optimal conditions for the best possible crop. The ultimate goal for indoor agriculture is to emulate natural environmental conditions. Replicating UV from sunlight and providing each cultivar with the conditions it requires take a tremendous amount of control and precision.
Types of technology necessary in commercial cultivation include:
- Lighting technologies
- Irrigation & Fertigation technologies
- Pest Management or IPM
- Crop Steering and Monitoring Tech
- Security & Surveillance technologies
As growers scale their facilities, they often look to automation equipment and technology to reduce the workload.
Commercial Cannabis Harvesting
Cannabis harvesters use a variety of equipment to trim, buck, and dry the plant material. Trimmers are used to remove the large leaves and flowers from the stem. Buckers are used to cut the stem into smaller pieces.
Cannabis must be adequately dried and cured to preserve its quality and potency. If cannabis is not dried and cured correctly, it can become moldy and lose its flavor. Additionally, improperly dried and cured cannabis can be harsh on the throat and lungs.
The equipment used to dry cannabis in commercial production can vary depending on the size and scope of the operation. For small-scale growers, a simple drying rack or hanging system may suffice. But for larger commercial growers, purpose-built cannabis drying cabinets or rooms outfitted with industrial fans and dehumidifiers are often used to speed up the drying process and ensure a consistent, high-quality product.
Commercial Cannabis Processing and Post-Processing
Once the cannabis crop has been harvested, trimmed, and properly cured and dried, the next step in the process is processing the cannabis into a consumable product. Except, of course, the top-graded buds, which are likely reserved for raw flower sales.
Depending on the product type, cannabis may be put through extraction, distillation, and isolation processes. These highly complex lab processes allow manufacturers to refine the extractions to the appropriate format for their particular product or formulation.
At this point, producers may employ post-processing equipment. If the final product is an edible or beverage, producers must use the same equipment that other candy and beverage producers use. Cannabis is simply an ingredient that they blend into their final goods.
Other equipment used in post-processing may include cartridge fillers for vaping, pre-roll packing machines, and final retail packaging machines.
Commercial Cannabis Testing and Analysis
Testing and analysis are quite possibly the most critical steps in cannabis production for a variety of reasons. It helps to ensure the safety of the product, as well as its quality. Testing can also help to determine the potency of the cannabis, as well as any contaminants that may be present. Analysis can also help to improve the overall quality of the product.
Although each state has its own testing and analysis requirements, cannabis tests should include evaluation for:
- cannabinoid potency
- terpene potency
- heavy metal contaminants
- residual pesticides and herbicides
- mold, fungus, and microbials
- water activity
In a recent podcast series, we highlighted the importance of proactive testing for environmental contaminants in a cannabis facility. Implementing a proper pest management and remediation program into the operation is an essential part of growing commercial cannabis.
Commercial Cannabis Retail Sales & Compliance
The final step in legal cannabis production is distribution. At this stage, software becomes a crucial technology for the industry. From elaborate POS systems that integrate with state compliance systems to e-commerce and delivery systems to allow consumers a safe and convenient way to shop, other software services allow cannabis businesses to meet the rigorous regulations required for legal cannabis sales.
Just as software solutions have simplified most of the work we do today, software in the cannabis space has helped producers in multiple ways. Outside of tracking and compliance, sales tracking and consumer data help producers plan grow schedules and determine product demand. Likewise, high-tech data collection, such as geolocation and smartphone analytics, continue to play a role in many marketing programs.
Technology Solutions Simplify Processes
As with any consumable product, commercial cannabis producers must expect a certain level of rules and regulations. Technology solutions such as these can help ease the burden on producers.
Look for the commercial equipment and technology you need for your facility in the Cannabis Tech Marketplace.
Do you provide equipment or tech for commercial cannabis or hemp production? Contact Cannabis Tech to learn more about the benefits of being a Cannabis Tech Partner!