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So you own or operate a cannabis grow business – what could possibly go wrong? Let us count the ways! These are the questions that keep many of us awake at night, and the problem is they don’t get answered even in the light of day. Without meaningful analytics, creating repeatable results can be nearly impossible.

Beyond pestilence, mold, bad weather and all the other issues faced by outdoor growers, indoor grow operations are at the mercy of the equipment and systems managing their environment. One can assume that having equipment and sub-systems such as lighting, HVAC, fertigation, hydroponics, Co2, etc., that all will be well.

The premise of a controlled grow environment is that it creates the optimal conditions to grow the perfect crop – every time. This assumes the equipment and sub-systems are each working correctly, they work together in harmony, and they operate in context of the grower’s recipe for each stage of the grow process.

Communication Among Sub-systems

Most sub-systems in grow facilities operate in a standalone manner and weren’t designed to talk to other systems. In fact, the ability of these sub-systems to share information is limited – they simply were not designed to provide analytics on their own performance, or to share data with other vendor’s systems. As a result, the grower and facility managers must often manually assemble data from each sub-system to make sense of overall operating conditions and equipment performance, and compare with crop health.

Managing and physically monitoring each grow system separately creates unnecessary complexity, increases the chances of  missing a system problem that can impact the crop, and places a heavy burden on facility management. Moreover, grow facilities without an integrated information management system fail to make good use of the abundant environmental science data that’s readily available

Cultivating System Insights

How can the master grower, facility operator, business management and investors all have confidence that each system is operating as required to prevent crop loss, while ensuring ideal environmental conditions are being met to confidently grow the perfect crop? If creating the perfect grow environment for each crop is the goal, then it’s vital to have visibility and insights into how all of your systems are performing. 

As the cannabis industry evolves and becomes more aligned with professional bio-pharmaceutical practices, we should expect to see increasing FDA compliance requirements, higher business standards for managing grow operations, and need for consumer reporting of the origin of their products and how they were produced. In some ways the cannabis industry is at a similar stage to the agriculture industry before organic certification was established. In those days, requirements to inform consumers on how fruits and vegetables were grown didn’t exist. All of this points to the need to more effectively manage all aspects of a grow operation using modern information technologies. This will differentiate the professional businesses from others who operate in manual mode. 

So the question is: how can we, as an industry, prepare ourselves for these eventualities?

Mastering Meaningful Intelligence

Grow facilities contain an array of specialized sub-systems from multiple manufacturers, each using different software protocols and programming formats. In order to turn all this into meaningful intelligence for the grower, facility manager, and the investor, the solution is to assemble together all the available data about the grow environment, plant health, and the equipment serving the space. In this way, the grow facility can operate their business with modern information technology – and this requires functionality in the following areas:

  1. Data Aggregation:

    Extract and assemble real time and historical data from grow system equipment, third party bio-science systems, and specialized environmental sensors. 

  2. Data Management:

    Normalize data from diverse systems and align in a time series format to ensure ability to correlate equipment performance and grow conditions in real time. 

  3. Analytics:

    Generate analysis and metrics to track cultivation conditions and system operations via fault detection, KPIs (key performance indicators), and custom algorithms configured to each grow facility, and across portfolios of cannabis facilities. 

  4. Presentation:

    Dynamic dashboard displays, live alerts when anomalies are detected; automated reports catered to different stakeholders (i.e. different reports for management, cultivators, and facility management) to ensure equipment and environmental issues can be identified and corrected before affecting plant health or crop loss. 

This is the must-have cannatech solution for successful cultivators. With such a platform, information can be shared in real time with all stakeholders in a grow operation leading to improved efficiencies and better managed risk. Given the investments made in your business, the benefits of being informed about unexpected conditions before they affect plants is invaluable. As well, the ability to correlate yields with grow conditions allows for experimentation and enhancement of current strains by documenting every aspect of the grow cycle.

Looking ahead, as in other industries, we see that information technology will be the differentiator for successful businesses that intend on leveraging innovation to win.