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The Latest Automation Options for Cannabis Cultivation

By Kent Gruetzmacher | Last updated: April 13, 2021
Key Takeaways

The legalization of cannabis has been a boon for technological advancement in cannabis production. With a wide array tools and tech available, Kent Gruetzmacher examines the latest automation trends in marijuana cultivation.

Indoor cannabis cultivation has always been intimately bound to the technology supporting it. However, our motivations for using this equipment has changed over time. Originally, indoor garden 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 a fruitful field of horticultural tech featuring such sci-fi level gadgetry as trim robotics.

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In modern cannabis production, our biggest motivator for technological advancement is no longer secrecy: it is profitability. The initial transition of cannabis cultivation from “underground” to “above ground” brought with it a storehouse of knowledge on cannabis botany. Yet, many commercial producers have struggled to transition this knowledge into profitable business models.

In the year 2020, innovation in horticultural technology was dedicated almost exclusively to operational efficiency. Looking specifically at automation in cultivation, commercial growers are using computers, robots, machines, and more to increase profitability on several fronts. Without further introduction, here are the latest automation options for cannabis cultivation.

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Grower using automation software on a tablet in a growroom

Garden Management Software

Leading cannabis producers use software to organize raw garden data into intelligible information, so 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 — like 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 lacked a platform that organizes this raw data in a fashion that is relevant for operational efficiency.

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Leading garden management software like Grodan’s e-gro gives cultivators the ability to understand garden inputs and weigh them against performance. Now producers can make educated decisions on vital operating expenses such as electricity, labor, fertilizer, and materials. They can also track strain performance from harvest-to-harvest and create accurate projections for sales teams.

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Overhead view of a cannabis field captured by drone

Inspection Drones

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 and 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. Commercial hemp farmers are using drones to carefully monitor their crops in an extremely efficient fashion as 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 to cannabis, these applications are quite promising for monitoring 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. Drone technology can save cannabis growers significant labor costs in monitoring garden health.

Grower inspecting a trimmed cannabis bud

Trim Robotics

In an 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. While growers have seen countless new gadgets to monitor and control cultivation environments, the harvest-side of the operation still leaves ample room for innovation. Hence the introduction of the trim robot.

The legalization and commercialization of cannabis has upended the methods growers have traditionally used to trim cannabis flowers. As such, trimmers have become increasingly popular with commercial producers as they greatly reduce labor costs needed to process a harvest. Yet, many people complain these machines are “tough” on flowers and miss many of the fine points of hand trimming — specifically excess leaves and stems.

Read also: The Significance and Benefits of Cannabis Trichomes

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. Proprietary technology as “Machine Vision Algorithms” are touted as being able 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.

Summary

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 options like garden management software, drone technology, and trim robots will pay increasing dividends.

Looking to the future, it will be exciting to see what innovations come next in the cannabis space.

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Written by Kent Gruetzmacher | Writer, Owner of KCG Content

Profile Picture of Kent Gruetzmacher

Kent Gruetzmacher MFA is a Colorado-based writer and owner of the writing and marketing firm KCG Content. Kent has been working in the cannabis and hydroponics space for over a decade. Beginning in California in 2009, he has held positions in cultivation, operations, marketing, and business development. Looking specifically to writing, Kent has worked with many of the leading publications and marketing agencies in the cannabis space. His writing has been recognized by such icons as Steve D’Angelo and Rick Simpson.

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