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High Tech Is Powerfully Influencing the Future of the Cannabis Industry

Legalization has opened the door for marijuana entrepreneurs to innovate with robotics and artificial intelligence. The results are amazing.

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Who, besides me, has imagined a future featuring fully-automated weed farming, space-age extraction techniques and access to cutting-edge cannabis tech? Anyone? Just me?

Panuwat Sikham | Getty Images

We stand today at the verge of widespread global legalization for an industry that has largely been driven by empowering medical patients of all kinds to take charge of their pain medication regimen. Can the future of cannabis lie in the hands of technology providers, rather than producers themselves? It’s possible that accessibility to emerging tech will empower farmers to create a new kind of business framework for themselves.

With the expansion of any industry comes the opportunity to tap into the latest in high-tech industrial capabilities like artificial intelligence and systems automation. The cannabis industry is buzzing with industry-specific breakthroughs in computerized crop management, indoor vertical farming, advanced extraction techniques and packing technologies.

Related: Facebook Now Allows Marijuana Businesses to Appear in Searches

A unique spirit of open-mindedness and experimentation have existed in the industry long before legalization, and continue to drive interesting developments in all directions. Rapid, fearless innovation is part of what makes the world of cannabis so exciting to entrepreneurs of all kinds. From blowing pipes to bud picking, every corner of the cannabis industry is more than down for disruption. Here’s a rundown of who’s leading the high tech charge.

The Uber of weed.

Since consumers want their (legal) weed as quickly and efficiently as possible, companies like Eaze, GreenRush and have stepped in to offer third-party delivery services with simplified order applications.

A little help (managing) our friends.

The need for CRM services in the industry has opened up a space for Baker to become “the Salesforce of weed,” boldly going where sales software hasn’t been before. Industry-specific POS services like Cova, BioTrack and GreenBits are also busy making high-volume dispensary sales a breeze.

Putting the best bud on the map.

You can’t smoke it unless you’ve got it, which is why companies like Massroots, 4Twenty Today, Leafly and Weedmaps have built massive online communities dedicated to finding the freshest local green and sharing their UGC with the rest of the fam. Apps like Tokr take this info even further, finding the best deals and the best weed in town.

Canna K-cups? Okay.

Simplifying the consumption process is central mission of CannaKorp, which is often touted as the “Keurig of cannabis,” thanks to their easy-to-use tabletop vape cartridge technology. PAX Labs is the one to beat in the portable cartridge category, but newcomers like DaVinci are showing up to challenge the status quo.

Related: Pass the Cannabis, Please: Marijuana Among Restaurant Trends for 2019

Technology that stays on top of everything.

Where exactly does A.I. come into play? Maybe we can learn a thing or two by looking at what the team at Motorleaf has been building. Their integration of machine learning into the indoor farming process is nothing short of revolutionary.

Motorleaf CEO Alistair Monk invites us to “Think of artificial intelligence as a technology that can do what a human can do already, like a robot vacuum. The difference is the robot can go all day and night, week after week.”

Machine learning makes it possible for a robotic farm to self-regulate everything from temperature and water content of the air to using multi-spectrum light formulas to create strain-specific growing conditions that are optimized in real time. The A.I. performs these tasks in a way that a human can’t do, by making thousands of real-time calculations to figure out the most efficient way to perform each task -- even building predictability models around crop yield and quality.

A.I. and machine learning work together to create an amount of business opportunity previously unseen in this industry, giving businesses of all kinds an edge over the competition. And in the competition for early-stage market dominance, advantage is everything.

Related: State Regulators Consider Better Ways to Determine Who Controls Cannabis Business

Human-centered product development is key.

Scientific advancement is another huge driver of the cannabis industry’s success, with legalization opening up exciting opportunities for research and development. With each scientific breakthrough in medical cannabis growth and extraction technology, we move closer to finding new ways to help patients find relief.

Research around personal extraction methods is just beginning to uncover the immense potential technology has to change the lives of medical cannabis users. When combined with advanced growing tools like Seedo, Grobo or LEAF, the cost and inconvenience factor of acquiring concentrates is reduced dramatically, giving patients expanded access to high-quality treatment options at home.

This concept is a reflection of the cannabis industry’s longtime mission to provide relief for people suffering from chronic pain or terminal illness. As more investment enters the space, it will be interesting to see if the “people over profit” ethos prevails.

Long live the potential power of the leaf.