Kristina Etter   |   October 29, 2021

Reap the Benefits with Crop Monitoring Systems

Face your fear of the unknown; implementing crop monitoring software doesn’t have to be scary.
Kristina Etter spent 20 years in corporate IT with a niche in mobile technology and IoT in agriculture. Today, she combines her love of technology with a passion for cannabis as the Editorial Director for Cannabis Tech.

 

Fear of technology, or technophobia, is common in many people. Some experts believe that we all suffer at least some level of anxiety when it comes to new tech. The cannabis industry, despite its relative youth, is no different.

Before the legal industry began, keeping a marijuana operation low-tech was intentional. The less traceability, the better, and technology leaves a data trail. In today’s world of regulated, commercial cannabis, technology is imperative. Maintaining absolute consistency in a highly regulated operation that requires seed-to-sale traceability with multiple environmental variables simply cannot be done on paper.

However, when it comes to adopting new technologies, many of us tend to be hesitant. Whether implementing a new software program or doing an entire systems upgrade, big changes create anxiety.

California Artisanal Medicine, or CAM, recently made the transition from their legacy system to AROYA’s Cannabis Production Platform. We spoke with Anna Wiley, CEO at CAM, to discuss the transition and how they’ve been able to reap the benefits of crop monitoring systems in their grow rooms.

Why is Crop Monitoring Necessary in Cannabis Cultivation?

The production of commercial cannabis has evolved dramatically over the last 30 years. As such, the rules and regulations regarding the crop have also changed. Growing cannabis for the legal industry requires maintaining records of a wide range of data points.

Let's look at the operation in terms of technological parallels. Cultivators have various inputs, such as genetics, nutrients, and environmental conditions, with the expectation of specific outputs like high yields, cannabinoid potency, and terpene expression. Unfortunately, sometimes even minor variances to the inputs can have a significant impact on the anticipated outputs.

In speaking with Wiley, she stressed that having high-tech systems in place is integral to a cannabis business’s success. “It’s hard to scale a business when you have one room bringing down 120 pounds, the next bringing in 140, and the room after that only bringing in 97 pounds,” she stated, explaining the problem of variability.

“I cannot stress enough how important systems and processes are if you want to scale and have consistency in your product,” she continued.

It All Boils Down to Data

Wiley has been cultivating cannabis commercially since 2009 and is managing her 12th building in her long career. She insists that the key to quality, consistent cannabis lies in the data, and without crop monitoring systems, you simply don’t have all the information necessary to make informed business decisions.

John Gorman, Director of Partner Success at AROYA, couldn’t agree more. “Whether it’s compliance, crop steering, or harvested inventory, or drying, processing, and packaging – we take all that data from propagation to the product getting shipped out the door and make it accessible and visible to all who require it.”

Using a combination of high-end sensors designed by their parent company, Meter Group, and software integrations, the AROYA platform tracks and monitors critical data along the entire supply chain. The sensors integrate with the systems, and the AROYA platform helps add a layer of precision data cultivators can use to visualize problem areas in their processes and infrastructure.

After implementing the new system, we asked Wiley to talk about the transition, to which she replied, “It’s been life-changing for us. Now we have tools to pinpoint where the variables intersect.” She continued, “Not only can I see my EC, but this helps look at field capacity and moisture content and how they intersect with air temperature and humidity levels, and even VPD.”

“Now, will it replace the fact that you don’t have enough air conditioning or humidity controls? Absolutely not,” Wiley warned. “But it will give your cultivation team a really good case to argue for equipment upgrades.”

As an overall result, Wiley stated that crop monitoring has tripled CAM’s yields with consistent potency and quality. “Not that we weren’t growing great plants before, now – we just have more of it,” Wiley boasted. “By being able to control all of our data points, we’re seeing the highest test results we’ve ever seen.”

Look Out! Standardization is Coming

Using baseball as an example, Gorman explained why cannabis should be ready for a more standardized, homogenized playing field:

“Baseball was played for centuries before it became professional and standardized. Every city had its own rules that were constantly evolving, and the game wasn’t played the same everywhere. Then, in the mid-19th century, they hammered out the rules so that everyone could play the game the same way and ultimately birthed what we now call ‘America’s Pastime.’”

In parallel, Gorman continued, “We believe cannabis is at that same kind of tipping point and is about to become optimized. The businesses that are using the right technology, play by the rules, and know the game inside and out are going to be the ones that stick around a long time and rack up a lot of wins.”

Face Your Fears

While making drastic changes to your IT systems is rarely something we look forward to, keeping up with new technology advances helps keep your company competitive in an increasingly brutal market. Adopting and upgrading critical data systems just may help your company avoid an early grave.

 

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