How the Cannabis Industry Has a Growing Need for Innovation and Jobs

| SEP 20, 2017 | 5:12 PM

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Pull, snip, repeat.

Trimming, one of the most tedious and repetitive processes of harvesting marijuana in the budding cannabis industry has made the plant a perfect client for robotic mechanization.

Startups like Bloom Automation, based on the East Coast in Boston, Mass., are also working to create and manufacture robots to streamline the most arduous processes of harvesting cannabis, like trimming.

Trimming requires workers to pull long branches from marijuana plants, identify and manually cut the leaves with scissors to separate them from the flowers on the plant. Bloom's robots will use cameras to identify different types of leaves and plants and precisely trim them.

“The industry is coming into its own at a time where there is a lot of advanced technology,” Jon Gowa, the founder and CEO of Bloom Automation, explained to Independent Journal Review.

Medicinal marijuana use is legal in 29 states, and in eight of those states and Washington, D.C., those who are 21 and older can light up without a medical card. With a projected annual growth rate of 25 percent, national prohibition of the drug is no longer saddling financial interests in the product.

Gowa, who has worked on creating robots for the agriculture industry in the past, says that while the addition of Bloom robots will expedite the trimming process, their product will not replace the need for manual labor jobs in the industry.

“Robots don't work without humans, the humans are going to complement the robots,” Gowa told IJR. “They enhance the efficiency of the operation.”

At a projected value of more than $20 billion by 2021, the North American cannabis industry has created an innovation gap as demand for the drug gets higher. And Silicon Valley types like Microsoft are rolling out the money for the cash crop.

Gateway, an incubator and investment fund for cannabis industry startups based out of Oakland, Calif. is trying to invest early in the budding industry, treating the companies similar to tech startups.

“If we create great companies from founders that you would expect to see leading any particular company, then that would be the vehicle to help the industry go into the mainstream,” Ben Larson, co-founder of Gateway told IJR.

Funding for cannabis industry technologies also provides the opportunity to branch outside the marijuana industry, explained Larson, including transformative agriculture technologies and enterprise software innovations.

And marijuana's multiple applications in material, medicinal, and athletic industries makes the industry far larger and more complex than the alcohol industry.

“If you look at the industry as a whole there's going to be tons of jobs being created,” Larson told IJR.

“As the industry grows and becomes more relevant and legal you're talking tens of thousands of jobs in each state. Growers, dispensaries, distribution, delivery, manufacturing you name it,” he said.