Legal Marijuana Cultivation Is Driving A Technology ‘Revolution’ In Industrial Agriculture

CANADA: Deep within a cedar forest in British Columbia, Dan Sutton is building what he hopes will be the most energy-efficient, high-technology greenhouse for growing cannabis. Spurred by the booming market for medical marijuana, he and a group of biologists and engineers have experimented for almost three years with digital sensors, lighting arrays, software programs and ventilators to design a greenhouse system with the lowest energy costs and highest crop yields.

“We said, ‘Let’s assume everything that’s ever been done in cannabis cultivation is wrong, and we have to build from the ground up,’” said Sutton, the 28-year-old managing director of Tantalus Labs in Vancouver.  “We have this broad realm of science that no one has been able to previously explore.”

The startup is among a growing number of companies in North America designing new products and systems specifically for the cultivation of cannabis, a finicky crop that needs a precise balance of light, moisture and water to thrive. Although these cannabis ventures aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel — greenhouse technologies have existed for decades — they are injecting the kinds of capital and brainpower into the field of industrial agriculture that simply wasn’t there a decade ago.

 

The Marijuana Industry And Its First Crossroads

Marijuana has come a long way in the United States since California launched its first-in-the-nation medical program 19 years ago. Today, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis to some degree, and public perception of the plant is clearly shifting. Medical marijuana is being used in treatment of a variety of illnesses including several types of seizures, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder.

New polls by GallupBeyond the Beltway, and General Social Survey all show that for the first time since its prohibition, a majority of Americans support legalization of the plant. Change is coming to the American cannabis industry, and it’s time to prepare for it in earnest.

Marijuana is now on the cusp of mainstream legitimacy, and established business interests are beginning to work with the initial trailblazers of the American cannabis market. Further, while technological innovation is revolutionizing everyindustry, breakthrough ideas in a market as young this one have the chance to become defining cornerstones. Early-to-market products and solutions are seeing widespread adoption in absence of entrenched industry leaders.

New technology firms are playing a major part in increasing the efficiency, transparency, and security of the legal cannabis market. MJ FreewayBioTrack THC, and Agrisoft have all developed software to track the plant from seed-to-sale, protecting the integrity of the supply chain at every step. Additionally, I constantly see proposals from developers aiming to find new ways to connect grower to sellers and sellers to consumers.

Pitching Marijuana Startups Brings New Meaning To High Tech

CALIFORNIA: Investing in a social network closely tied to a booming industry sounds great, until Apple kicks the thing you invested in out of the App Store because the platform is all about marijuana.

It’s one of the many things that can happen when two of the fastest growing industries in America come together, as is taking place this week in San Francisco, where several dozen entrepreneurs are pitching 200 or so investors, Shark Tank style.

Organizers of the investor-pitch forum cite as legitimacy the recent multimillion dollar investment by Silicon Valley titan Peter Thiel‘s Founders Fund in a holding company of several marijuana-related firms. The entrepreneurs at the Fairmont Hotel are pitching startups selling marijuana-growing equipment, apps that help with medicinal marijuana delivery, and even a spray that an entrepreneur says was developed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that coats marijuana with grower information, acting as a kind of DNA bar code.

“It’s more suited to what cannabis would be in the future,” says DNA Trek founder Anthony Zografos.

Since Colorado and Washington first voted to legalize recreational marijuana use in late 2012, the legal cannabis market has grown from $1.5 billion in 2013 to $2.7 billion last year, according to industry estimates. That kind of velocity gets the attention of investors, many of whom focus on tech.

RFID Tags Track Marijuana From Seed To Sale, In Colorado

COLORADO:  On New Years Day, Colorado became the first state to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana. The new legislation has provoked a Denver-bound flood of “Ganjapreneurs” and kickstarted what is sure to be a very profitable pot tourism trade.

Yet the business is far less hippie and far more button-down than it appears. [Read more…]