... can be good bedfellows.
As the cannabis industry matures, automation would be the key to long-term success. The increased demand is adding big problems; labor shortages that are unlikely to improve soon and growing methods are not good enough to sustain a projected trillion-dollar product. Integrating robotics could help producers pick specialty varieties of marijuana blossoms and proceed them, just as high-tech combines from companies like Deere & Co. already are assisting farmers of commodity crops to harvest grains. Autonomous robots that run along tracks also are ferrying bins inside greenhouses, cutting down what workers have to do.
But unlike in manufacturing, where artificial intelligence and computer vision power factory arms that move car parts or handle food in predetermined ways, agricultural fields and greenhouses pose a challenge for machines. Marijuana does not grow in uniform sizes, mature at the same rate for machine to access. This makes particular crops harder to harvest than commodity crops.
With our Support Services unit, we plan to design “next-generation harvesting machines,” such apparatuses that can move autonomously and handle delicate items. Naturally, such ideas are years away from commercialization, but on a near-term basis, we intend to embrace robotics when renovating our existing greenhouse to improve our speed, mobility, and ability to handle unpredictable tasks reliably.
One problem with robots, they cannot “see” behind the marijuana leave without potentially harming the blooms or buds they are trying to grab. This is a significant problem. Lighting conditions also can make it difficult for robots to see their target.
We will attempt to solve these problems on a hands-on basis while modernizing our greenhouse and during the construction phases of additional greenhouses. Our plans are to enhance the quality of sensors that allow robots to understand and navigate their surroundings, improve machine intelligence with better data and to create crops that are easier for robots to harvest. At present, these ideas are in the early stages of development and will only be considering during our transformation phase.
New thinking must be applied to how marijuana crops are grown and how humans, plants, and robots should work together. Yes! Robots and weed can be good bedfellows.