The Future of Cultivation

There is very little mystery when it comes to brands like Starbucks and Chick-fil-A.  The brands are successful because the customer can count on having a consistent experience.  Consumers feel confident that they will always receive the same fried chicken sandwich, no matter the Chick-fil-A location.

When it comes to purchasing cannabis, this is seldom the case. Cannabis enthusiasts often rant about purchasing a particular strain and having different experiences with it each go around.

“Gelato” a strain that gained popularity and notoriety for its pungent aroma and powerful fast-acting effects, was soon cultivated coast to coast. However, what growers may not have known was that “Gelato” like most cannabis strains, produces up to 503 unique chemical compounds in different ratios and proportions and it is the aggregate effect of those compounds that give a strain its “effect.”  The amount of each chemical compound produced is determined by a strain’s DNA and the environment in which it was grown. The plasticity of cannabis and the variability in growing environments make providing customers with a consistent experience difficult.

A 2015 study  determined that “marijuana strain names often do not reflect a meaningful genetic identity.” While another test of cannabis products found that the THC levels did not match what was advertised. This lack of consistency is causing companies to reevaluate their growing methods and incorporate precision growing techniques into their repertoire to minimize variations in their flower quality.

In order to understand where the industry is going, first we need to understand how we got here. Traditional cultivation arose during an era of cannabis prohibition, where it was more important to be discrete rather than efficient. Now, as regulations loosen and we head towards federal legalization, we can anticipate more chages each year. The pace of growth for this nascent yet booming industry will be determined by the adoption of new regulations, the evolution of consumer buying habits, and ultimately the ability of growers and facilities to adapt.

Cannabis growers did not benefit from the knowledge and science that other agricultural crops did over the last 100 years. The application of modern agricultural research and best practices was not adopted due to the clandestine nature of cannabis cultivation.  Now, with restrictions lifted, we confidently anticipate these advancements will crossover into modern cannabis cultivation practices.

Over the last fifty years, agriculture has made many advancements in order to meet the demands of the global food supply. These advancements include: breeding for improved crop yield and hardiness, advancements in agricultural equipment to enable farmers to produce more with greater efficiency and less labor, vertical farming to address urban population density and limited arable land, and the application of artificial intelligence paired with NDVI to detect diseases and prevent crop devastation. 

While indoor cannabis cultivation methods have improved significantly in recent years, they are still huge electricity hogs, have too many touch points and lack consistency and reproducibility of the growing environment. Solution providers are beginning to address these issues with the application of technology and automation. By leveraging data, growers are empowered to maximize overall quality and yield with less touch points. Lastly, we can anticipate the incorporation of software driven, systems engineered, vertical farming units which will allow growers to utilize a multi-tier cultivation approach to maximize their real estate. The software will automate vast amounts of data collection, which in turn will be used to further optimize the cultivation process and ultimately the quality of the flower produced!

In order to address the issue of inconsistency growers must embrace repeatable cultivation procedures coupled with granularly controlled cultivation environments to minimize phenotypic plasticity (variability) in the flower’s chemical and phenotypic expression.  By deploying modern technology in new and innovative ways, cannabis growers have the opportunity to break from labor intensive, resource driven processes that yield inherently variable results.

Ultimately, thanks to technology like that offered by Agrify, cultivators will be able to grow high quality flower with reproducible environments and repeatable practices, delivering consistency of process and product!                    



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