|Robotics has the potential to thrive in the cannabis industry /Photo Credit: Tinnakorn jorruang (via Shutterstock)|
Jason Rambo, Jodi Haines, and Cody Alter own Oregon-based cannabis farm Alter Farms, wrote Jim Romeo of robotics website Robotics Business Review. The farm’s award-winning cannabis has garnered numerous awards for their products. Alter Farms was also featured in publications such as The Potlander, Dope magazine, and Celeb Stoner. Growers are trying to keep up with the demand as more states legalize cannabis production and use. So far, about 33 states including the District of Columbia “have some form of law” that legalizes marijuana. The District of Columbia and some 11 states have deeper and more comprehensive laws on the legalization of cannabis. Still, the increased demand in cannabis may prompt growers to resort to investing in robotics and automation technologies to increase productivity and optimize their operations.
But adopting robotics in cannabis farming will take time. Josh Kern, an analyst for autonomous systems with Lux Research in Boston, said, “The development of state-specific cannabis regulations remains in flux. While we expect states to slowly pass industry favorable legislation, it still remains a fragmented industry.” For him, the fragmented nature of the industry supports the consolidation production rather than tech innovation such as robotics. To improve productivity, cannabis farmers are turning to solutions such as those from Bloom Automation.
The company develops robots that are programmed with machine vision and path-planning algorithms. They were trained by using about 6,000 images of cannabis crops to help the robots identify the parts of the plant and determine and isolate the cluster of flowers needed for harvest. Bloom Automation boasts a 97% accuracy, making the process more efficient.
The cannabis industry offers new opportunities for robotics. For example, robots can be used for indoor or outdoor operations to harvest and aid in the processing of cannabis products to market. Carl Silverburg, Senior Vice President for outreach and public affairs for iUNU, stated that they collaborate with some of the largest produce and cannabis farmers in North America. He continued, “The reason is that robots are infinitely more efficient, the data they collect is instantaneous, and it only takes them an hour to scan a football field-sized greenhouse.”