A.I. and Robotics Are Changing Cannabis…Here’s Why

Published on March 2, 2020

The cannabis business is changing, and not just because of the laws allowing its sale, both nationally in the form of hemp and state-by-state in the form of marijuana. The farming of these crops is being modernized with tech like hydroponics, robotics, and artificial intelligence, and this modernization is leading to a whole new market for the products produced from the harvest.

But why use so much tech for a plant that grows outdoors easily in most climates with no pesticides or herbicides? The answer lies in the newer uses of these plants.

What Happened to Hemp Rope?

For hundreds of years hemp rope was used around the world because of its abundance, strength, durability, resistance to mold, and more. Hemp was used for cloth for many of the same reasons.

When it became a threat to the paper industry, a campaign was launched to vilify its sister plant, marijuana, and the successful campaign led to the prohibition of both for decades. Hemp was classified as a drug despite the fact it contains little THC because it looked so much like marijuana that it was believed it would be impossible to prohibit one without the other.

The 2018 Farm Bill Brought Hemp Back Nationally

While there have been hemp pilot programs for decades at universities, the 2018 Farm Bill finally removed the controlled status of hemp plants so that they could be regulated at the state level as to how to allow their growth and use. This opened up a massive market for CBD and hemp food products, but it created another problem.

Cannabis plants, both hemp and marijuana, are bio-accumulators. That means they absorb whatever groundwater or air pollution they come in contact with and hold it. The effect is that whatever product is made from the polluted plants contains that same pollution.

This is a huge problem when the plants are being used for medicinal purposes. CBD is one of the most popular of these purposes currently, but scientists are discovering new compounds and new ways of using hemp and cannabis plants for medicinal purposes every day, and purity is crucial.

How Do New Growing Methods Help?

While growing cannabis plants outside for non-consumable purposes like rope and cloth is still as eco-friendly as it gets, growing plants indoors can also be highly eco-friendly. Growing plants indoors is necessary to prevent cross-pollination between hemp and marijuana plants in places where both are legal and grown side-by-side.

Cross-pollinated hemp plants can contain high levels of THC, which would classify them as marijuana plants and render them useless, while cross-pollinated marijuana plants could contain little to no THC, rendering them useless, as well.

Indoor growing has long been associated with resource-hogging equipment and electricity needs, but thanks to new advances in technology that is no longer the case. Scientists are perfecting hydroponics and vertical farming in hopes that these techniques will be used to feed an ever growing but condensing population in the future.

Artificial intelligence and robotics come into the picture to make these techniques more efficient and effective. Some plants, like cannabis plants, are extremely susceptible to mold and rot if grown in the wrong growing conditions.

Artificial intelligence and robotics can be used to monitor humidity and mold and make adjustments in the environment to prevent a disaster before it starts.

AI and robotics can also be used to monitor lighting conditions, nutrient needs and applications, water needs, and more in a way that produces the best possible yield of the best possible product with the fewest resources possible.

Can Technology Make These Industries Viable?

The way cannabis has been grown and harvested historically has been intensive in resources, both physical resources and human resources. Advances in farming technology in general is leading to an industry that will be more sustainable and viable as a business moving forward, helping cannabis cast off its energy-hog reputation of the past.

This opens up the possibility that more scientific advances can be made in the treatment of ailments using the different cannabis strains because it will be more readily available and of higher quality than ever before.

CBD is already being used to treat seizures, so what comes next? Learn more about the tech being used to grow cannabis from the infographic below.

Brian Wallace is a Columnist at Grit Daily. He is an entrepreneur, writer, and podcast host. He is the Founder and President of NowSourcing and has been featured in Forbes, TIME, and The New York Times. Brian previously wrote for Mashable and currently writes for Hacker Noon, CMSWire, Business 2 Community, and more. His Next Action podcast features entrepreneurs trying to get to the next level. Brian also hosts #LinkedInLocal events all over the country, promoting the use of LinkedIn among professionals wanting to grow their careers.

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