The medical cannabis industry is a very high-tech subset of horticulture. There are so many regulations to comply with that no human error can be forgiven. However, one of the questions legal cannabis growers should answer is: how do the technological components in a growing facility interact between each other? According to Ido Hefner, Indorz co-founder and CEO, many medical cannabis growers are looking to make use of automation and automated processes, in order to lower opex costs, create efficient industrial product environments that turn healthy, consistent and high quality cannabis cycle after cycle similar to any well oiled large scale production facility.
From the left: Noam Bar Hadas, agronomist; Or Blinder, co-founder and COO; Ido Hefner, co-founder and CEO; Jordan Markus, director of business development.
An holistic solution
Indorz until now has created a proprietary hardware and software for command & control systems geared towards industrial scale cannabis farming, for both greenhouses and indoor grows. "Indorz delivers a holistic solution to growers and business operation stakeholders alike to align cultivation facilities as they scale up and deal with the everyday challenges of competing in what is now becoming an extremely mainstream and normalized production environment, as technology plays a larger factor”, he explains. Ido worked for many years for big corporations, and he brought to his new venture this ‘large-scale’ mentality.
This is exactly the kind of added value that he wants to bring to the cannabis industry. “We have done a lot of research and talked to a lot of growers, working with students in Canada as well as working with our own internal sales & marketing team to find the right message and the right product fit that we believe best fits the vast needs across this ever-changing market . We saw that a lot of growers do use automation, but this is on a very low level using legacy systems with 0-1 or off-on inputs."
Additionally many solutions out there today are super focused in one or two areas except for the fact that as many of these growers are telling us, there is no synergy or syncing between the data they are collecting from these various sources of technology and devices. For instance, they have a controller for the lights, one for temperature and humidity, and they have an irrigation pump controller, and maybe another one for the CO2… everything is measured through small controllers. However, these are not connected to each other, they do not communicate. When you are working on a small scale, this situation can work well. Things definitely get different when it comes to large-scale operations.” This is why the indorz approach is focus on building a holistic solution, even working with other technology companies to bring more industrial and robust solutions to many of their larger customers.
The complexity of growing
According to him, such an attitude leads to production issues which can compromise the end result of a specific grow. “One of the major things in our world is that not every batch looks alike. The medical cannabis industry needs to produce medicines that are the same every time! There is no room for big differences between one yield and another – growers need to be consistent when it comes to the end product.” Ido continues by explaining that it is very difficult to achieve such a stability and consistency when you have all these different components to take care of individually.
That’s why Indorz came up with a holistic solution that allows growers to wirelessly control every single aspect of a growing facility. “We developed a holistic system that hosts all these small controllers under one platform. In order to be most effective, there needs to be more than ‘a dry set of rules’,” he says. Ido goes on to address points to the complexities of growing operations and of managing a cannabis growing facility. “Indorz’s platform functions as a data gathering system that analyzes every small detail of the growing facility. We place sensors all over the facility, in order for growers to be proactive and anticipate future problems or to optimize the growing operations,” he says. “It is not enough to put in one humidity sensor or two. We place them everywhere, in the water tank, for instance. We have sensors that measure the root zone: what is happening in the growing medium? What is the temperature of it? All these questions require answers if a grower aims to be competitive in this industry, especially considering all the different regulations she has to comply with.”
Data Acquisition, Cognitive Reporting and Automation and Operational Excellence
Indorz’s holistic system is provided with a machine learning module that helps growers predict future scenarios and , as aforementioned, be proactive, thus avoiding any unpleasant surprise. “The cognitive automation of our system is exactly the aspect that makes it possible to predict future scenarios. Then, it is up to the growers to understand what the things to be addressed are, in order for their operations to be more successful.”
The Indorz system also has an image processing component that facilitate data visualization, thus representing “an invaluable help for medical cannabis growers that want to improve,” says Ido.
Operational Excellence Matters
One of the pressing problems within the cannabis industry is a widespread lack of knowledge with regard to best practices for growing, and more than that using data to optimize the operation. .Oftentimes, growing operations go through hard times because maybe the head grower left, and the new one taking over the job is not familiar with the old method. Therefore, he feels the necessity to implement new elements and perhaps technologies, thus causing a substantial amount of money to be spent in order to properly balance everything out. “This is a very real example and something that we have already as a young company had to deal with in some scenarios, and when our holistic system comes into play, thus facilitating the transition between one methodology to another,” explains Jordan Markus, Director of business development with Indorz. “ Beyond that, data acquisition and cyclical reporting become incredibly important, whether its an old grower leaving or just a change in strategy for the grow, the baseline need of every farm should be to understand what they have accomplished in the past, what that means for their grow operation today and how they are predicting and planning for the future goals and operational challenges they will face. Our holistic system prevents such a data loss to happen as every single aspect of the growing process is recorded, and creates a picture of more 14 critical data points along with image processing. Our system constantly monitors the grow and points out what needs to be adjusted. Then, it is the growers’ turn to act accordingly. We are able to do this thanks to our machine learning module.” Ido remarks that: “We are not telling people how to grow. Our system enforces the grower’s wishes and gives them the tools to be successful.”
“The tipping point will be in two years”
Since it is completely wireless, Ido takes care to explain that “Our system has no limitation for sensors, making it extremely easy for scaling operations up. You can connect as many sensors as you want, monitoring literally everything within your growing operation through only one holistic system.” According to Ido, such high control degree will prove itself to be necessary as the cannabis industry grows. “The tipping point will be in two - three years with regulations becoming more substantive, federal governments in major countries such as the US and others following in line with Canada’s already federally legal system, creating an extremely competitive environment. This includes a prospective export market that will expand how farms think about their genetics, their cultivation practices and distribution market available. Facilities currently operating at 10,000 Sq Ft will need to scale at a minimum of 3-5X their size to sustain and see growth for their operation, while already larger Scale Tier 1 and Tier 2 facilities will need to continue to reduce cost while maintaining consistency and quality . We believe that whoever will have substantial control over all their growing operations, are also the growers and stakeholders who will be open to working alongside technology to enhance their operation and ability to consistently deliver them a strong yield that can best fit the customer and market needs, will become the leaders in this growing industry."