Part 3 of 8 for 2018 Cannabis Trends: Increased demand domestically and internationally promote advancements in agricultural technology.
Agricultural technology in the cannabis industry is undergoing some big big changes and, in 2018, expect those changes to continue to accelerate towards automated, wireless, and efficient. The biggest catalyst for change is the Canadian cannabis market. Cannabis companies across the nation are signing supply agreements with Canadian provinces, and in order to meet those demands they are building massive production facilities.
For example, several months ago the cannabis giant Canopy Growth Corp. recently signed a supply agreement with Prince Edward Island to supply the province with 1 million grams of cannabis annually. Canopy has also signed similar agreements with other Canadian provinces.
To keep up with this demand, Canopy is currently in the process of constructing two massive production facilities; one that will total 1.3 million square feet of growing space and the other totaling to about 1.7 million square feet. Once you figure in Canopy’s other production facilities, the company is expected to have over 5 million square feet of growing space; which is astonishing.
In order to manage all of the space, cannabis companies are looking for ways to improve efficiency and automation. Take Gavita for example. Gavita is a lighting and hydroponics company that recently became popular with cannabis growers ever since it was purchased by Scotts Miracle-Gro. Gavita’s most popular product used to be the 1000W DE HPS system but, as grower’s search for better efficiency, the 750W fixture has started to outsell it.
Expect the cannabis industry in 2018 to start moving away from traditional HPS lighting solutions in favor of both LED and Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH) Lighting.
LED lights have been on the market for years now, but it’s only been recently that the price of LEDs have become competitive. The big advantage of LEDs comes from the fact that they require less energy, emit less heat, and can manipulate the light spectrum to maximize growth. Some also claim that LEDs can help deter pests and bacteria growth, but there’s been little scientific research to confirm these claims.
The breakout star of AgTech this year, however, is going to be CMH lighting. Because of their unique properties, CMH lights are more efficient than HPS lights (350W per lamp vs. 1000W), are cheaper than LEDs, and have on average a Color Rendering Index (CRI) score of 90 out of 100. HPS lights only have a CRI score of between 20-30 and metal halide lights have a CRI range of 60-65.
In terms of automation, cannabis cultivators are looking to reduce as many simple tasks in the cultivation process as possible. Using platforms like Grownetics, cannabis cultivators can track their grows, automate lighting, and utilize big data to understand what works and what doesn’t.
Other companies are taking automation to a whole new level. For example, a startup in Boston called Bloom Automation is currently developing a robot that is capable of trimming cannabis plants. Although the robot is too expensive right now to employ on a massive scale, expect Bloom and other cannabis companies to start seeking similar solutions in both the short and long term.
For the short and long term, expect the world of cannabis agtech to bend towards automation and cheaper, less energy-intensive, lighting solutions. One company already moving in this direction is VividGro. Recently the company launched its first lightweight sustainable light fixture, GroBar, as well as announced the acquisition of home cannabis grow-app WeGrow; which the company hopes to use its technology to help provide more streamlined solutions to cannabis cultivators.
VividGro, a manufacturer of high-quality LED grow lighting products acquired cannabis home grow app company WeGrow, for an undisclosed amount. The app has had over 20,000 downloads in the iTunes Store. The product was first launched in April 2017 using chatbot based technology that has simplified the learning process of growing cannabis using personalized conversations.
“VividGro acquired WeGrow to further its transition from a provider of LED lighting solutions to being an integrated AgTech company that provides crop-agnostic hardware and software solutions to indoor farmers of all varieties and sizes,” said David Friedman, VividGro’s President. Friedman added, “WeGrow’s superior technology supports this transition. We plan to rapidly expand the functionality of WeGrow’s chatbot platform for the home grow market and extend our reach to licensed cannabis cultivators worldwide”.
“We’re excited to have completed this sale less than a year after launching our first smartbot,” said Mason Levy, CEO of Education Bot, Inc. “VividGro is a perfect partner who will advance our vision of WeGrow while expanding into every aspect of horticulture — from cannabis to tomatoes.“
Many states that have legalized medical marijuana usually allow some form of in-house growing for a set amount of plants. This has spawned a cottage industry catering to the home grower. A 2017 Harris poll shows that 8.8 million, or 16% of all adults, would grow marijuana if it were legal to do so in their state. The survey also finds that the age group most likely to grow their own cannabis is millennials, the target market for a chatbot platform.
Besides growing marijuana VividGro’s expansion of the platform could be used to serve other crops and address the growing needs of indoor home gardeners. As indoor growing becomes easier more people are looking at growing their own greens and some vegetables like tomatoes in their homes. Restaurants are also looking at this trend of indoor growing and while it can’t supply an entire restaurant’s needs, customers respond well to seeing a wall of indoor grown food sources inside the restaurant.
WeGrow’s chatbot technology is designed for users to engage via a conversation with the platform, which uses artificial intelligence to provide proactive insights to optimize the performance of home gardens or commercial operations.
The WeGrow founding team continues to enhance smartbot-based engagement under the Swivl brand. VividGro is the horticultural LED division of Lighting Science Group. VividGro implements solutions that improve growers’ profitability by lowering operating costs, increasing efficiencies and yields, and decreasing cycle times.
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