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Cannabis & Artificial Intelligence: The Arrival of Robopot?

Cannabis & Artificial Intelligence: The Arrival of Robopot?

U.S., April 6, 2020 (Cannabis Now)- Entrepreneurs are aggressively plugging the application of artificial intelligence in everything from automating grow operations to matching strains with symptoms they are effective against.

Artificial intelligence technologies are now being crafted specifically for the cannabis industry, and boosters say these two business spheres are on the cusp of a revolutionary convergence.  

New applications of AI in various aspects of the cannabis biz — from cultivation to marketing to financing — are being unveiled at a dizzying clip. 

Smart Growrooms 

Royce Birnbaum, co-founder of CEAD, a Phoenix-based company that develops artificial intelligence applications for the cannabis industry addressed the technology with Grit Daily. CEAD seemingly does not have its own website yet, but is said to be testing its technologies at an R&D center, where the focus is on cultivation. Their systems monitor plant nutrition, growth rates and life cycles. The collected data helps determine feeding and pruning schedules and head off such phenomena as pest outbreaks.  

“One struggle most growers are facing is…the need to have successful, continuous cultivation cycles without potential for deviation or disaster as we see so often in the industry,” Birnbaum said. “CEAD provides any grow operation an unparalleled ability to predict when to water, fertilize and harvest. This will enable an upsurge in quality, while reducing manpower needed to maintain each plant, as well as give a comprehensive overview of all operations and outcomes related to cannabis cultivation.” 

An overview of evolving AI applications for cannabis in Medium notes that devices such as high-resolution crop sensors are being used to give accurate growroom conditions, while robotics are employed to automate or remotely control aspects of plant care. 

Medium cites the Israeli start-up Seedolab, which is offering a self-contained automated hydroponic cannabis “grow box.” As Cannabis Now noted last year, the company is plugging the net-linked device as the world’s first fully automated organic cannabis cultivation product. 

A similar overview on the tech site Produvia says “Automated Marijuana Operations” can “track the growth rate of cannabis plants in their vegetative stage using machine vision and artificial intelligence.” This methodology can also “recommend malting setting and schedules based on CO2, temperature, humidity and PH using artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT’s).” Montreal-based Motorleaf is named as one of the companies pioneering this kind of hi-tech growroom monitoring.

Smart Strain Personalization 

Medium lists several applications beyond the growroom. In Canada, more than 30,000 different strains are being offered on the legal market, often leaving medicinal users at a loss as to which is best for their specific needs or condition. AI is being used to parse existing data from studies and peer-reviewed journals to match strains to symptoms and ailments. Namaste Technologies and Citizen Green are named as companies developing such systems.  

The latter has teamed up with a firm called with Spartans AI to devise the app Prescriptii for this purpose. A promo video for the app on YouTube says it “transforms the patient-retailer relationship and creates better medical outcomes while driving business growth by leveraging innovative technologies and a cryptocurrency-based loyalty rewards program.” 

User reports on effects from particular strains build up a database that over time will refine the process of connecting patients and products — a method that has been used by researchers before. 

The Produvia review calls this a system of “custom tailored marijuana strains” that can “find weed strains best suited to treat symptoms (insomnia, asthma and cancer) by reading peer-reviewed medical journals and surfacing relevant studies on cannabinoids…” 

CNBC reported on another app called Potbot that uses AI to “read” through medical journals to find studies on cannabinoids, pairing 37 symptoms with branded cannabis strains. 

Potbotics CEO David Goldstein said the company has raised $5 million to date. The app is available in Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store. 

“We definitely see there’s interest in the industry, for sure,” Goldstein told Produvia. “It’s one that has real potential in the United States and internationally. A lot of investors like non-cannabis touching entities, because they feel like they are hedging their bets a little bit.” 

The financial end of the biz is of course also utilizing AI. Produvia reports that researchers at the University of Georgia, Athens, are developing an app to “predict stock markets based on social media mentions of #marijuana using data mining.” 

Smart Unemployment?

There is definitely a sense of anxiety underlying the enthusiasm here, however. In a YouTube exercise in mutual promotion, Lior Romanowsky, founder and CEO of Spartans, was interviewed by Yael Rozencwajg, CEO of its partner Blockchain Israel. Romanowsky said cannabis companies “are at a point where they understand that f they don’t implement artificial intelligence today or tomorrow, they will be at a disadvantage relative to all their competitors… and that’s really crucial.” 

And amid this seeming inexorability, the same questions are raised about potential social displacement caused by automation of the cannabis industry as in any other economic sector. 

A March 2017 headline in the New York Times vindicated what many Americans have long intuited: “Evidence That Robots Are Winning the Race for American Jobs.” The story quoted an MIT study that found: “Robots are to blame for up to 670,000 lost manufacturing jobs between 1990 and 2007… and that number will rise because industrial robots are expected to quadruple.” In some areas, “each robot per thousand workers decreased employment by 6.2 workers and wages by 0.7 percent,” although nationally the effects were smaller, because jobs were created in other places. In Detroit, “each robot per thousand workers decreased employment by three workers and wages by 0.25 percent.”

This inevitably brings to mind the recent news from British Columbia, where the leading Canadian licensed producer Canopy Growth has shut down two huge greenhouse facilities, laying off hundreds of workers. The decision seems to have been informed by a determination that the market had been overestimated, and that outdoor cultivation is more cost-effective. But in the near future, the lure of robot-grown cannabis may also enter the accounting of downsizing and worker lay-offs.

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