Why technology companies are interested in the cannabis industry

Posted Nov 18, 2018 by Tim Sandle
Now that, in many countries, cannabis is becoming big business, technology companies are offering technological solutions, from machine learning to improve cultivation to blockchain to ensure transparent transactions.
Two people share a cannabis joint
Two people share a cannabis joint
Fred Dufour, AFP/File
That technology and cannabis growing and distribution are fusing was emphasized at the 2018 Marijuana Business Daily Conference (or MJBizCon), which recently took place in Las Vegas. The event has grown considerably in recent years as more U.S. states have legalized marijuana (either for medical or recreational use). Not only does this mean more production, it means that the sector is becoming increasingly lucrative. For example, SyFeed notes that cannabis market in Michigan alone will reach $2 billion annually in a couple of years.
With the event its self, there were over 1,000 companies exhibiting and 25,000 attendants from 63 countries on show at MJBizCon, and sizable number of these were technology related. One such company was CannVerify, which aims to tackle counterfeiting or adulteration of the product through serialization, much like a pharmaceutical company would. The company manufacturer holographic labels that have an individual serial number. The labels can be scanned and this process inputs the unique code into a blockchain database. Through this, blockchain technology empowers both the company and consumer to control the product and to track it through each supply chain step. The idea here is that plant cultivators will be able to use that label, and consumers will check the label using the CannVerify app. If the two match, the marijuana is guaranteed to be genuine.
As reported by The Verge, another application of technology is machine learning. As demand for cannabis increases, so must production; moreover, different qualities of cannabis will have their own consumer niches meaning that some cultivators will wish to produce different grades of pot. There are thousands of different strains with varying levels of cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol, which have different tastes, strengths and effects, and thus appeal to different users.
An example is Botana, which takes the form of a mobile application, analyzing data from all relevant environmental and strain conditions. A second example is Snaphash, which optimizes watering and other plant growing steps.
Finally there is automation. As an example, Bloom Automation have developed a robot which automates the cannabis trimming process (which, with any plant, is necessary for keeping the plant health). As trimming is a delicate process, a robot can achieve the task more consistently than a human.