Cannabis may grow like a weed, but the more work you put in, the better your buds will ultimately be. It takes a considerable investment of time and resources to cultivate a top-shelf product. With margins in the legal market razor thin and competition increasing, licensed operators must do what it takes to survive.
For many, this means leaning into tech—specifically automation. Growers have been using things like light timers for years, but advancements in controlled agriculture have made indoor cultivation of cannabis even more precise and efficient. The result is a consistent output that’s actually more sustainable.
And it’s not just the grow where automation can play a key role. From post-harvest processing to packaging and extraction, these tools can have a major impact across the supply chain.
Some people may not see the immense benefits automation offers the cannabis community. It’s easy for folks to be stuck in their ways, but the fact is that automation may just bring this industry back from the brink.
Growing More With Less
Cannabis cultivation can be fickle. There are seemingly a million and one things that can go wrong—and usually, at least a few do. The process is also incredibly resource-intensive, requiring an awful lot of water, energy, nutrients, and labor.
Using automated lights, watering, and nutrient dosing ensures each plant gets exactly what it needs when it needs it—no more, no less. Not only does this promote plant health, it also saves precious resources.
“The sustainability conversation in cannabis is a legitimate concern, and automation can help make grows more environmentally friendly,” noted Chris Ellis, CEO of AI Grow, a provider of controlled environment agriculture solutions. “Cultivators save money on their utility bills and waste less of our Earth’s precious resources.”
Since these tools are automatic, there’s no need for hand watering and feeding. Grow staff can focus on other tasks, further reducing costs.
Deploying technology can also help prevent crop catastrophe before it happens. Environmental controls, such as AI Grow’s Birdhouse sensor, monitor a grow’s temperature, humidity levels, CO2, and much more. If something goes haywire, an alert goes off, ensuring it’s handled immediately. Growers can be thousands of miles away and still check their crops via a mobile device, offering peace of mind.
“We as growers understand the anxiety around leaving the plants, but environmental controls and automation prevent problems before they start allowing you to rest easy,” Ellis added. For commercial cultivators, consistency is also key. Reputation is everything, and one batch could make or break a relationship with a buyer. Automation helps guarantee each harvest is the best it can be, boosting yields and keeping sales on track.
Once cannabis has been harvested, it starts an entirely new phase of its life cycle. From trimming and bucking to final packaging, the plant still has a long way to go before it reaches the consumer.
There are plenty of tools available to producers hoping to streamline the post-harvest process. From machine trimmers to automatic sorters that separate the smalls from the bag-worthy buds, these solutions boost efficiency and eliminate human error.
It’s no secret that staffing is often one of the biggest expenses for cannabis operators. Investing in equipment on the front end can help drive profits up in no time. “The manual process of packaging is highly labor intensive and costly. Automation reduces that manual labor, therefore significantly reducing budgets,” said Alain Vo, co-founder and CEO of automated packaging company LeafyPack.
A Competitive Edge
Many small businesses may believe they can’t afford automation solutions as part of their start-up costs. However, the investment often pays for itself by cutting costs elsewhere and generating a better, more consistent product. It also provides a crucial advantage in a game that gets more and more cutthroat by the day.
“In competitive markets, we see automation as the tool that keeps many companies in business,” said Kyle Loucks, founder and CEO of RollPros. Their automatic joint rolling machines craft high-quality Js that are as impeccable as hand-rolled in a fraction of the time.
Jeff Wu, Founder of Xylem Technologies, makers of robotics capable of filling carts, vaporizers, and prerolls, argues that operators must utilize cutting-edge tools at their disposal in order to thrive.
“Regarding manufacturing automation, most cannabis companies cannot achieve profitability without automation due to the competition and price compression in legalized states,” Wu explained. “Each additional piece of equipment deployed effectively lowers cost, improves product quality, and alleviates manufacturing bottlenecks that slow production while delivering accurate and transparent data to optimize a company’s operations and resources.”
While peer pressure is never a good reason to do anything, it’s clear that automation is one area where operators may want to look to their peers. The technology is giving certain brands a leg up, and it’s clear that the solutions are helping them reach the top.
Automation: Necessary For Cannabis To Level Up
Innovation can change the world, and the cannabis space is no different. Whether it’s decreasing operating costs to boosting sustainability, automation can help the industry in myriad ways. It may even lead to the creation of a better smoke.
“One of the myths of automation is that it decreases product quality. That is absolutely not true,” Loucks argued. “With good automation technology, you can and should expect the exact opposite; your product quality should improve!”
It’s understandable that some would have concerns over the place of technology in cannabis. But if the industry wants to survive and thrive as a consumer-packaged good space, these solutions are beyond necessary. Efficiency, consistency, and scalability are all benefits of automation and operators mustn’t be scared of what the future holds—especially if they wish to succeed.
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AI Grow LLC Booth #55023
LeafyPack Booth #2914
RollPros Booth #2224
Xylem Technologies Booth #4614
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