New Advancements in Automation for Cannabis Cultivation
Indoor cannabis cultivation has always been intimately bound to the technology that supports it. However, our motivations for using this equipment change over time. Originally, indoor gardening technology was developed so people could grow cannabis inside their homes without being arrested. Today, as this lineage of innovation has evolved with the times, we see advancements in automation for cannabis cultivation such as trim robotics.
In modern cannabis production, our biggest motivator for technological advancement is no longer secrecy, it is profitability. That being said, the initial transition of cannabis cultivation from “underground” to “aboveground” brought with it a storehouse of knowledge on cannabis botany. Yet, many commercial producers have struggled to transition this rich field of knowledge into profitable business models.
In the modern industry, innovation in horticultural technology is dedicated almost exclusively to operational efficiency. Looking specifically at automation for cannabis cultivation, commercial growers use computers, robots, machines, and more to increase profitability on several fronts.
Garden Management Software
Today, leading cannabis producers use software to organize raw garden data into intelligible information. As such, garden management software is a noteworthy new automation option for commercial cannabis growers.
For indoor and greenhouse cultivators, the use of atmospheric sensors and moisture meters is nothing new. Similarly, the cannabis industry has had smart grow technology – such as environmental controllers – for many years. With this marriage of technology, sensors and brains work together in regulating such things as lighting, temperature, humidity, and CO2. However, until the advent of garden management software, growers have lacked a platform that organizes this raw data in a fashion that is relevant for operational efficiency.
Leading garden management software like Grodan’s e-gro gives cultivators the ability to understand garden inputs and weigh them against performance. With this knowledge, producers can make educated decisions on vital operating expenses such as electricity, labor, fertilizer, and materials. Even more, they can track strain performance from harvest to harvest and create accurate projections for sales teams.
In both industrial and hobbyist applications, drone technology has taken the globe by storm. Whether it be with industrial agriculture or national defense, people utilize the advanced camera systems on drones to monitor critical activity. On that note, the cannabis industry is no exception to our newfound fascination with drone technology.
Thus far, drone technology has made the biggest splash in commercial hemp production. To this end, commercial hemp farmers are using drones to carefully monitor their crops in an extremely efficient fashion. Namely because, a drone can monitor acreage exponentially faster than your average Cultivation Technician working on foot. Today, hemp growers use drone technology to monitor plant counts, fertilizer imbalances, and pathogen activity. Looking more specifically at cannabis, these applications are quite promising for monitoring such things as powdery mildew and botrytis deep within a tightly packed garden canopy.
Forward-thinking drone companies like Precision Hawk are giving farmers the capabilities to efficiently manage hemp farms to the tune of hundreds of acres and beyond. That being said, drone technology is a very promising new automation option for cannabis growers as it can save significant labor costs in monitoring garden health.
In the article titled “Big Cannabis Technologically Ahead of its Time, But Post-Harvest Automation Remains Elusive,” Forbes identifies trimming as the facet of commercial production lacking most in technological advancement. To this end, while growers have seen countless new gadgets to monitor and control cultivation environments, the harvest -ide of the operation still leaves ample room for innovation. Hence the introduction of the trim robot.
The legalization and commercialization of cannabis have upended the methods growers have traditionally used to trim cannabis flowers. As such, “trim machines” have become increasingly popular with commercial producers, as they greatly reduce the labor costs needed to process a harvest. Yet, many people complain that these machines are “tough” on flowers and miss many of the fine points of hand trimming – namely excess leaves and stems.
Bloom Automation has developed a “Robotic Trimming Solution” in hopes of balancing out the need for human craftsmanship and machine affordability in cannabis harvest operations. Therefore, by utilizing such proprietary technology as “Machine Vision Algorithms” are said to trim cannabis flowers with both “human accuracy” and robotic efficiency. Be sure to keep your eye on the trim robots from Bloom Automation as they continue to refine and perfect this technology.
Indoor cannabis cultivation and technology enjoy a fruitful exchange of energies that lead to creativity and innovation. This dialogue has led us to the modern legal cannabis space, where operational efficiency is quickly becoming our primary focus. As we come to redefine our methods in the quest for sustained profitability, automation for cannabis cultivation like garden management software, drone technology, and trim robots will pay increasing dividends. Looking to the future, it will be exciting to see what technological innovations come next in the cannabis space.
This article originally appeared in the April 2021 edition of Maximum Yield Cannabis Magazine.