“Especially for the medical cannabis markets, the consistency and low risk of our system is in high demand,” says Joshua Savage and Damien Stone from Vertical Cannabis Technology. The company has created a system that can fully automate the cultivation of cannabis from the time it is planted to the time it is harvested, while also controlling the environment. “At the simplest horticultural level, the System is a multilevel growing system using rolling benches, flood and drain watering and low voltage LED Lighting - all managed and controlled through a Modbus distributed network. Using this system, growers can decrease labor as well as the risk of diseases.”
According to Stone, Controlled-Environment Agriculture is already popular in the horticulture industry, but it is still very manual. “Our system, on the other hand, is very automated. From seeding/cloning to harvesting, to loading and unloading, it is all automated. It is a big advantage for growers to reduce the number of people required to operate, as you can decrease your operational expenditure. Moreover, by reducing the amount of human interaction with the plant, the risk of bacteria, fungus, mold, or viruses also decreases significantly. This is an essential aspect, as it is important to create an environment that is as clean as possible when it comes to medical cannabis.”
“In order to do so, the system has climate cells where the plants are grown. Each climate cell is an insulated, closed environment with up to 8 levels of growing benches. Each climate cell has an integrated vertical hoist at each end for the automatic loading and unloading of rolling benches that hold the growing media and plants.”
Joshua Savage and Damien Stone
And the automated solution they have created seems to be quite unique in the industry. “There are different types of automated solutions around, especially concerning watering or nutrients. However, we have not yet seen a system like ours, where the whole life cycle of the plant is automated in combination with having a controlled environment,” says Savage.
"Our system sizes range from 1,700ft² (158m²) total growing area right up to 47,620ft² (4,424m²) total growing area. And if you want to start small, all of our systems can be expanded later as the market grows or customer demands change. The modular system is optimized for low energy use, low water use, and low labor input while still achieving high return on investment results."
Different markets, different needs
The company is originally based in Australia and New Zealand and has only recently entered the North American market. “In Australia and New Zealand, the regulations are purely pharmaceutical. Therefore, you have to have a lot of permits and licenses to even start working with the plant. In this pharmaceutical space in particular is where we see a high demand for our system. This is because of the highly controlled environment it provides, and the grower wants to see the same output coming off those lines every time if you are going to put it into a clinical trial. We are just starting to get into the North American market, which is much more recreational and CBD-focused, but we are already seeing a demand there as well.”
And because these markets are so different, they are also interested in the different benefits of the system. “For the medical market, it is consistency, quality, and cleanliness that is of importance. With us, there is an almost organic way of doing it, because all you are putting in is pure air, pure nutrients, and pure water. You don’t have to worry about introducing hunter bacteria, for example. Instead, you have a much more simplified product from a medical point of view.”
According to Savage and Stone, the recreational market is more interested in automation. “They want to decrease their labor costs while still providing a consistent output. In addition, you can’t move cannabis between states in the US. Because of our consistent climate control, we are able to grow a strain in Colorado, and grow the exact same output in California, and the exact same one in Washington, for example. And as there are more and more multistate operators, it is a great benefit for them to provide that same product and consistency.”
“This consistency is the result of every climate cell in a system being automatically monitored and managed to maintain pre-set temperature, humidity, CO², watering and LED lighting levels to achieve optimum plant growth for the crop varieties planted. Any variation from presets or system function error is automatically identified, logged and reported by SMS text message or email.”
Winning awards and entering new markets
And it is not just the positive customer feedback, as they recently won the Australia Cannabis Industry Awards’ Best Tech Award. Moreover, they are looking forward to the new opportunities this year will bring them, when they are entering the North American market.
For more information:
Vertical Cannabis Technology