Cannabis Prospect Magazine - February '19 - Issue #1

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vision algorithms and infrared sensors, looking for signs of trouble: discolouration in the plants, strange growth patterns, pests/ infestations, etc. Data for completed crops is continually analyzed and optimizations are implemented for future crops. Harvesting – Mature plants are brought into a processing room by porter bot. In the processing room, robotic arms skillfully dissemble the plant, removing the RFID tag, separating the main stem from the roots, trimming the plant and then hanging the remaining branches and buds on racks which are then moved to a drying room. Just before entering the drying room a tiny sample is tested by a QA robot that analyzes chemical composition. Sorting and Packing – After sometime in the drying room, the QA bot samples the cannabis looking for changes in chemical composition brought on by the curing process. If the batch is within acceptable range, a porter bot is called and the batch is sent for processing and packaging. Once delivered to the processing room, robotic arms cut away the buds which are then sent by conveyor belt to a sorting machine. The sorting machine uses different sensors and actuators to sort the buds according to size. Once sorted another a packing machine assembles the buds in pre-determined portions by weight and then packaged. The cannabis is then put in jars where the jars are sealed, labeled and boxed. The boxes are then stamped, stacked and palletized. Tracking – As soon as a tissue culture

has been taken an ID number is given to the plant. This ID is then transferred onto an RFID chip that is physically tagged on the plant at all times. RFID sensors are deployed around room entrances and other choke points, so that every relocation/ movement of every plant is recorded at all times, seamlessly. What are the advantages for a licensed producer to adopt these technologies, or at least consider adopting them? Overall the industry will benefit from the classic advantages of automation, cost reduction, increased efficiency etc. But I think the biggest advantage for our industry with the automation/roboticization of our production processes is the consistency that we will be able to achieve. Right now, a significant problem for medical patients and the medical community at large when it comes to cannabis as a medicine is the lack of consistency in terms of chemical composition from crop to crop. Heck, even within singular crops there can be large deviations in what each plant produces would you accept medicine with varying levels of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API)? Or what about not just different levels, what about different APIs? The consistency piece is huge from a business/operations standpoint as well. Our CEO, Hamish Sutherland, famously says that “the cannabis industry is a compliance industry first”. If you are an automated operation it should be much easier to comply and demonstrate compliance with your regulator. Additionally, GMP certification should be a lot easier, giving

you access to more markets. All of which could add to the valuation of your company. Do you see inherent disadvantages to making processes more automated? Yes, there are clear disadvantages from automation/robo-farming. One of the biggest problems is the Capital Expenditure (capex) required to implement these systems. They require huge investment up front and payback periods are usually quite long. This can be especially daunting given that the supply side of our industry is still maturing – will cultivation shift to low-cost jurisdictions? Another disadvantage for automation is the poor optics it gives. Many cannabis businesses, if not all, submitted to their regulator via their license applications, that their facility would bring jobs to their chosen communities. Roboticizing operations would put this pledge in jeopardy and may cause problems with regulators (and even consumers) later on. On the technical side, introducing new technology always has risks and takes time. There will be a learning curve for both human operators and machines alike. It will take time before both will reach high proficiency. These systems are highly specialized and adapt to their tasks. Robots have a hard time dealing with exceptions, ambiguity and things that deviate from its programming. Adapting them to new processes that may be mandated by your regulator or other market forces can be very difficult and sometimes simply impossible.

February 2019 | Cannabis Prospect Magazine

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