Unlike other types of agriculture, the cannabis industry does not have a set of federal guidelines that regulate allowable pesticides and usage rates. The absence of nationwide, uniformed regulations has caused rules to vary wildly by state, causing some cannabis cultivators to turn to pesticides and other hazardous chemicals to control pathogens and preserve their crop yields. This is unsettling, as emerging research has found that pesticides in cannabis “are imminent threats that directly impact public health and wellness.” The problem of pesticides in cannabis is even more dire when we consider how the plant is often consumed: through inhalation. Additional research has shown that nearly 70 percent of the pesticides used in cultivation remain in the cannabis flower that consumers smoke.
Fortunately, cannabis cultivators have a reason to be optimistic, as great strides have been made in non-toxic crop management technologies and solutions, which replace conventional pesticides that are damaging the environment and potentially linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s, congenital disabilities, and other serious health issues. Not ironically, some of the most cutting-edge agriculture systems in use in the cannabis industry today are based on nature’s oldest designs. That is where the concept of biomimicry comes in. Biomimetic agriculture utilizes technology to replicate and/or utilize natural processes, resulting in sustainable solutions with minimal chemicals–the way nature has always intended.
Terra Vera’s non-toxic crop management technology mimics humans’ own biological systems in fighting pathogens, achieving what white blood cells do daily by converting organic, inert compounds into antimicrobial solutions. Instead of relying solely on bottled chemistry, cultivators can complement sustainable integrated pest management processes with on-site generation technology, which accomplishes the following:
● Eliminates supply chain constraints for chemicals. The user generates the antimicrobial chemistry when they need it.
● Eliminates storage and transportation of hazardous chemicals.
● Avoids potential accidental release of toxic chemicals to surrounding ecosystems.
● Prevents accidental inhalation or chemical burns.
● Reduces plastic waste in landfills.
● Lowers the carbon footprint of the business
Here’s how the technology works: the Terra Vera team installs a refrigerator-size generator at the cultivation center – the first step in ensuring fresh, on-site chemical generation. The chemical generator then undergoes electrolysis, creating a strong antioxidant that is engineered to mimic a mammalian immune system and biological process for combating pathogens. The resulting solution is then combined with water and a proprietary blend of salts and amino acids. The resulting chemistry is what is used to treat crops, both preventing and eradicating pathogens. The chemistry is safe for plants, people, and the facility, as the core technology is based on the U.S. military’s approach to treating drinking water to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.
The Terra Vera team is also beginning to find–through anecdotal and experiential data–that in addition to preventing and eradicating pathogens, the on-site generated chemistry presents additional benefits to the plants throughout various growth stages, ultimately increasing the yield. But more concrete data and research is needed to confirm this.
However, even the most sophisticated and innovative technology needs to be combined with a thorough understanding of the cannabis plants and their environment, as well as with traditional best practices for cultivation. When working with a third-party agriculture technology company, growers should utilize that company’s support team as much as possible. This will help to foster a true partnership where education and transparency are prioritized to ensure all practices are safe and effective. Cultivators should ask for on-site training on how to best utilize their chemistry, as even the best chemistry is only as good as how it is applied.
In addition to seeking out vendors offering innovation-driven solutions to replace conventional pesticides, cannabis companies and their cultivators can embrace simple, preventative measures to minimize outbreaks of bio-contaminants. A few actionable tips to protect a grow from contaminants include:
● Use a dedicated set of tools that are not used on other plants to prevent microscopic “hitchhikers” from infecting your grow.
● Never dry sweep the floors as it could put spores and bacteria that have settled on the floor back into the air.
● Have the staff wear protective clothing and have it washed or changed on a daily basis.
It’s fitting that a premier agriculture technology for the cannabis plant, now celebrated more than ever before for its natural medicinal properties, has its roots in natural processes. The licensed cannabis industry is pushing the envelope towards more environmental and health-conscious practices and can hopefully set an example, so we see a paradigm shift in the broader agricultural industry.
About Christopher Walsh:
Walsh brings a wealth of industry knowledge to agriculture technology company Terra Vera coupled with a diverse range of professional experiences: he spent nearly two decades working as a Live Event Producer for concerts and has owned the legendary music venue Nectar's in Burlington, VT since 2003, while also promoting and producing extensively with members of the band Phish.
Walsh is also the Co-founder of CBD brand Upstate Elevator Supply Company and the former COO of CITIVA Jamaica. During his tenure with the latter, Walsh secured the introduction of flower sales in Jamaica’s licensed cannabis market while identifying and researching potential revenue-generating opportunities within the emerging global cannabis market and culture. Stateside, Christopher is the former President of Grassroots Vermont, the Green Mountain State’s first licensed medical dispensary.
About Caleb Johnson:
Caleb Johnson is the Director of Customer Success for Terra Vera, an agricultural technology company offering innovative solutions to replace conventional pesticides and increase product safety, consumer confidence, and product yield within the cannabis and agriculture industries.
Caleb has a demonstrated history of leadership and operational management within the licensed cannabis sector. Prior to joining Terra Vera, he was Director of Manufacturing for Mayflower Medicinals, a portfolio company of the multistate operator iAnthus Capital, for which he oversaw all aspects of its vertically integrated production and led a team of more than 65 employees. Caleb has also worked as a consultant both independently and for iAnthus Capital, for which he assisted in the development and licensing of their 41,000-square-foot cultivation and processing facility in Fall River, Massachusetts.