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Legal Cannabis Industry Spurs Cultivation Innovations

Mark Miller

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A new article in the International Business Times has detailed the technological and product innovations ushering in the transformation of cannabis cultivation from clandestine black-market gardens to broad agricultural operations.

In British Columbia, Dan Sutton, managing director of Tantalus Labs based in Vancouver, worked with a group of biologists and engineers to craft a 120,000-square-foot greenhouse that produces the highest yields with the lowest energy expenditures. Sutton and his team spent nearly three years experimenting with digital sensors, lighting arrays and ventilators, along with software programs, to design the inventive greenhouse.

“We said, ‘Let’s assume everything that’s ever been done in cannabis cultivation is wrong, and we have to build from the ground up,'” Sutton told IBT about his out-of-the-box approach. “We have this broad realm of science (to apply to pot growing) that no one has been able to previously explore.”

Swedish lighting firm, Heliospectra AB, has been manufacturing cannabis-centric, light-emitting diode lamps—artificial illumination that shines brighter, lasts longer, and covers more distance than existing lamps—since 2012. They are also augmented by software to allow pot farmers to control the intensity, spectrum and timing of the lights.

In a related story from March, IBT reported on Spokane-based, clean-water technology company Ambient Water Corp, which creates state-of-the-art atmospheric water generation systems that extract moisture from humidity in the air and convert it into purified H2O.  Such systems not only perpetually water pot plants, they also adjust humidity levels, allowing budding cannabis to be grown at perfect temperatures while preventing damaging mildews.

Boulder-based Surna, Inc. develops technology specifically designed for indoor pot farms, such as water-chilled climate control systems that maximize productivity, quality and volume, while lowering overhead expenditures.  Water-chilled tech operates via circulating aqua rather than air throughout a given location, a closed-loop system that prevents wasteful evaporation.

Despite marijuana’s increasing legality and acceptance, larger, more established companies remain hesitant to develop cannabis-specific technology, enabling cutting-edge start-ups to fill the void.

“If we targeted our products for use in data centers or in homes, we’d be competing with the huge behemoths,” Surna chief business officer David Traylor explained to IBT. “Our focus right now is on cannabis, which provides a much bigger playing field.”

The conventional greenhouse model is also being reinvented; Ambient Water is building its first facility intended for cultivating medicinal marijuana in Washington state that will be constructed out of a polycarbonate panel instead of traditionally used glass. The polycarbonate, manufactured by BW Global Structures, diffuses photosynthetically active radiation, permitting a larger portion of each plant to be exposed to light and resulting in increased yield and quality of medicinal flowers.

BW Global also employs custom software that tracks pot plants’ genetic strains from initial growth to product distribution in combination with climatic data that indicates the necessary greenhouse conditions to produce a desired level of THC and/or other cannabis compounds. Ratios of THC and other cannabinoids are not only determined by genetics, but also by a plant’s given growth cycle in a controlled growing environment.

As with all things legal cannabis, when it comes to technological cultivation innovations benefiting both the business bottom-line and product integrity, the sky is indeed the limit.

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