cannabis AI, robot hand reaching for leaf

Can AI Make It Better? Cannabis AI Tools Are Rolling Out

by | Oct 23, 2023

cannabis AI, robot hand reaching for leaf

Written by Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a cannabis writer and B2B content marketer living in British Columbia, Canada. Her focus on cannabis tech, scientific breakthroughs, and extraction has led to bylines with Cannabis & Tech Today, Terpenes and Testing, Analytical Cannabis, and Grow Mag among others. She is the owner and lead-writer of Sea to Sky Content, which provides content and strategy to the industry’s biggest brands.

Whether you believe AI is here to take our jobs or make them easier, you cannot deny that we are deep in the midst of an AI revolution. It’s not different in our industry — a wave of cannabis AI tools is infiltrating the entire sector.

These new tools are far more refined and curated to cannabis than the standard chatbot. Currently concentrated at the ends of the supply chain — the seed and the sale portion of the market — these technologies aim to make cultivation more efficient and then, eventually, increase sales.

Will cannabis growers, manufacturers, and retailers adopt these tools long term? Many platforms seem redundant or overly complex for the task, but a few — Genetica’s Flora AI is one that stands out — are likely going to change the course of the cannabis sector forever. Cannabis AI is here, whether we are ready for it or not.

Cannabis AI in the Grow Room

cannabis AI, motherboard, AI text with herb on it
Cannabis AI technology is currently focused on the beginning and end of the supply chain: cultivation and sales.

In preparation for this article, we did ask ChatGPT for advice on “How to grow better weed,” but the real promise of AI is, of course, not a chatbot conversation.

The core application of AI in the grow room is the ability to quickly and accurately analyze vast amounts of data from different sources, whether drones in the fields or sensors in the canopy. This data-driven approach aims to help producers decide when and where to plant, irrigate, fertilize, mitigate, and harvest.

For example, SpexAI and its multispectral imaging technology, named Hugin, seek to capture images “to obtain all the information we cannot see” in the grow room. Instead of humans moving through the canopy to find evidence of pests, nutrient burn, or harvestability, Hugin aims to capture these insights first to more efficiently and accurately apply human action. 

Bloom Automation Inc. is yet another cannabis AI cultivation assistant in the works. Much in line with SpexAI, this AI technology scans plants and analyzes data. But it can go one step further, turning those assessments into post-harvest automation. In scenes straight out of a sci-fi, Bloom’s AI feeds into robotic arms that it claims can both buck and trim harvested plants — and supposedly distinguish flower from sugar leaves, keeping trichomes intact.

The counter to all this technology seeping into cultivation is, of course, its direct impact on humans. Across all cannabis AI cultivation platforms, one of the more prominent selling points is always “labor savings” — a concern not solely limited to the cannabis sector. Still, if AI cultivation catches on, it will directly impact the tens of thousands of people currently working in plant-touching roles.

Cannabis AI as a Budtender

On the sales side of the cannabis supply chain comes a series of cannabis chatbots trained on specific cannabis data sets. Jointly, an app designed for consumers, connects experience to products to achieve specific outcomes. 

BudBuddy AI is another cannabis chatbot. It pairs AI-enhanced interactions with AI analytics (insights into user behavior, market trends, and optimal strategies for brands) to improve the conversation and, thus, the conversions.

But a new platform is going beyond a chatbot trained on cannabis data. Genetica Flora AI is a data company designed for cannabis retailers, pairing Flora Match technology with the soon-to-launch Flora OS. While Flora Match connects customer desires and personal details with COAs and inventory, the OS platform covers the back end, integrating into every system to assess multiple channels of data and help owners make timely and profitable decisions.

According to Ben York, Genetica’s CEO, “The goal is increasing the average transaction size, and increasing customer loyalty.” Flora Match doesn’t just upsell to increase basket size. It’s focused on the long-term goal of retention. As York explained, return frequency is just as crucial as basket size “because if that person is purchasing a huge cart at once and doesn’t have a great experience or purchase the wrong products, it may just take them a while to come back.”

Retailers who have launched Flora are already seeing returns. York shared that it led to a 71 percent increase in transaction size and a 63 percent increase in customer retention.

Soon, Flora OS will enter the equation, aiming to connect the disparate landscape of siloed technologies used to run a store. While many tools claim they support integrations, the reality is an in-store technology stack fraught with hiccups and walls to protect proprietary data. But Flora OS is designed to help all these systems work together. As a connector, not a competitor, these walls come down. 

Currently, Flora OS operates with a ChatGPT-style user-friendly interface, giving retailers a simple place to find answers — and one that doesn’t require you to parse through Excel spreadsheets or dozens of varied reports. 

Although Flora OS is still in beta testing, York shared two powerful use case examples. In York’s words, “The store owners walked in one day, and Flora OS said, ‘Your METRC was unplugged. You need to submit a report to METRC about why it was offline.’ He had no idea there was a power outage overnight and he totally would have missed it.” While York says they aren’t a compliance tool, the AI can clearly still help avoid potentially costly mistakes like these.

In another case, Flora OS reported on an under-motivated employee who required an intervention. A few days later, the employee came forward to resign. By reading employee sales, time clock data, and other pieces of information, the platform could see patterns unknown to the owner. Because of this, the owner could plan ahead and reassign this staff member to another more suitable role.

York is already in conversations with several supermarket and pharmacy chains to integrate Flora AI into their locations to improve conversion for CBD products. Next, it’s easy to see it applied to nutraceuticals and supplements.

Cannabis AI is Already Changing How We Do Business

“In my opinion, AI has the potential to significantly enhance the cannabis industry. By leveraging AI-powered tools, growers can optimize cultivation conditions, improving yield and quality. Advanced analytics can help in predicting market demands, ensuring cultivators produce strains that are in high demand. Furthermore, AI-driven disease detection can lead to healthier crops, reducing losses and ensuring consistent product quality. Overall, the integration of AI can lead to more efficient, profitable, and sustainable cannabis production.”

ChatGPT, Accessed Oct 20, 2023

ChatGPT’s opinion aside, AI is already at work across the industry, with a concentration of technologies focused on the cultivation and retail ends of the sector. 

Whether it is cannabis AI in the grow room compounding millions of points of data into actionable insights, budtender AI helping to connect consumers with accurate information and product recommendations, or an AI assistant manager catching mistakes and finding administrative efficiencies — we will undoubtedly witness growing uses cases for this tech in the next few years.