Similar to moonshiners from days of prohibition past, before cannabis became an outspoken word and thereafter, a thriving industry, knowledge of growing techniques were passed mainly through word-of-mouth. Cultivation techniques themselves were mostly simple and ‘down-to-earth.’ However, in the modern marijuana marketplace, there is significant room for more advanced technology solutions.
Enter intelligent automation.
What is Intelligent Automation?
According to a recent article published by Forbes, intelligent automation is defined as, “a more advanced form of what is commonly known as robotic process automation (RPA). Any large-scale activities or groups of repetitive tasks that draw on or feed information to multiple systems is an intelligent automation candidate.”
Well-suited for cultivation environments, intelligent automation is making its mark in the marijuana industry. With the overwhelming growth in support of cannabis trade and commerce, intelligent automation is shaping the future success of the cannabis industry in multiple ways.
Systems are already in place to utilize intelligent automation in cannabis cultivation including large scale commercial systems, small household systems, and everything in between. Many new startup cannabis companies are integrating intelligent automation as much as can be afforded as it offers an energy efficient and more environmentally-friendly growing system.
NuvusGro designed an automation product line for commercial grows. Aptly named grow.droid™, the system includes software engineered to provide plants an indoor environment with optimal growing conditions. The system offers two different options; a hydroponic system and a soil-based system which uses a coco medium combination with perlite.
The grow.droid™ developed by Nuvus technology company is a self-contained growing environment intended to perfect cannabis cultivation. Fully insulated, protecting the plant from outside pollution and maintaining optimum growing conditions, this system yields high-quality, consistent results. The grow.droid™ system can be programmed according to the growing area. The system can be built into shipping containers, singular standalone containers or even into ready-made facilities. The technology offers users the ability to customize the system based on certain preferences such as strain profiles, dosing, preferred growing method, lighting, and other factors.
Another company at the forefront of this technology is Bloom Automation. According to Bloom Automation, while intelligent automation can be a costly initial investment, the technology can reduce cultivation costs by up to 10x.
Lighting is one of the central aspects of cannabis cultivation which can be significantly enhanced by intelligent automation. In fact, many expect the technology to shape the success of LED lighting. Given LED lighting efficiencies, it’s likely the majority of enclosed growing systems will use LEDs. With favorable economics, sustainability, and a long ‘shelf-life,’ LED lighting systems could begin to dominate the market in a few years.
Trimmer robots are another promising area of intelligent automation. Most cultivators would agree, the trimming stage of cannabis cultivation is a critical step, and therefore most would also be wary of an automated system tasked with this delicate job. However, with intelligent automation increasing in efficiency, systems like Bloom Automation are working towards developing software which combines automation with human precision.
While automatic trimmer machines are not a new concept, it is a technology which will likely see future expansion. This is an industry-wide issue interesting to those growers looking to utilize automation technology for a smaller section of the process, and companies such as Hii Technology have developed the Turbo Trimmerz to address this niche market demand.
Automated Systems in Outer Space
Combining two of the most cutting-edge and exciting areas of technology, Space Tango joined an initiative to send growing cannabis to the International Space Station. Space Tango, a Kentucky-based company, engineers sophisticated laboratories the size of microwaves. One of these small laboratories will be sent to the International Space Station (ISS) in an effort to analyze if growing cannabis benefits from being outside of the earth’s gravitational pull. Once the mini-laboratory lands on the ISS, scientists will use these as clean growing labs to analyze and track the growth of hemp and cannabis. This zero gravity experiment could lead researchers to discover how the cultivation of plants can improve once free of gravity.
Intelligent automation may be an answer to maintaining consistent quality for large commercial grows and meeting the growing demand of the cannabis market. While the joy and art of ‘hand-raising’ a single household cannabis plant will always be cherished, commercial cannabis producers can benefit from taking advantage of advanced agricultural technologies.