Derek Smith, Resource Innovation Institute:

“We need more data to understand the environmental impact of cannabis cultivation”

“A lot of claims are rooted in unsubstantiated or very few data points. We need more data to be able to understand how much energy and water cannabis growers are actually consuming and what their carbon footprint is,” says Derek Smith, Executive Director and Board Member of Resource Innovation Institute. By establishing a platform for producers, the organization is building a much-needed data set, helping growers as well as governments. “Without this data, governments are writing policy blindly. Moreover, we can help growers with a customized plan to increase energy efficiency.”

Derek Smith 

Improving policy
“The number one thing that everybody agrees on is that there is a lack of data in the cannabis industry. We need more data to be able to understand what is actually happening,” says Smith. “How much energy and water is actually being consumed, and what is a facility's carbon footprint? There are a lot of claims rooted in very few data points and what we think is happening instead of what we know through sufficient data. What is not happening enough is the actual evaluation of facilities.” This lack of data comes with consequences for the industry. “Without data, governments are writing policy blindly.”

Therefore, the Resource Innovation Institute aims to fill this gap. “We support governments with data that protects the confidentiality of individual growers, but that can express what’s happening in a facility. By doing so, we are building a data set in which you can see what’s working and what’s not in various types of growing environments. When writing policy, this is important information for governments, as these are buildings occupied by plants, not people. The way you regulate them or write a policy that can support them is different than when it is a commercial office building.”

Building a dense dataset
Smith explains that the Resource Innovation Institute has a technical advisory council with a wide range of market actors, all interested in creating a more efficient future for this industry. “Our membership ranges from the California Energy Commission to Priva and leading producers. Everybody that is a member of our organization is working collaboratively to figure out what the data points are that we need to help producers be more efficient, for example. We have made presentations for various regulators, we support jurisdictions that require energy and water reporting of producers, and we support producers who voluntarily want to benchmark their performance. And through all of this, we are building an important data set.”

With every operation being different, an extensive data set is of importance for the relatively new industry. “It’s a newly legal industry that is moving very fast. There is no real baseline understanding of what a typical performance is, and there is also a tremendous variability in practices. That is why we need to build a dataset that is dense enough to represent the dynamic of the market.”

So far, Resource Innovation Institute’s platform has been used by hundreds of producers in multiple jurisdictions. “We are thrilled that the industry understands that there is a value to opening up with a very modest amount of transparency. First of all, it will come back to them in the form of good policy and more incentives for improvements. Moreover, with the operational insights of their performance, we can set up a plan to improve their energy efficiency. The average producer can likely save 5-50% on energy use, so there is a lot of opportunity for greater efficiency in the industry.”

For more information:
Resource Innovation Institute 

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