Since the first cannabis retail stores opened last year, business has been booming. But the rapid growth has also created significant challenges.
Among them, has been creating infrastructure. With no case studies or templates to work from, the marijuana industry has had to create basic systems for production, marketing, sales and logistics from scratch.
This has created opportunities and a number of companies have developed innovative technology solutions to improve these functions and ensure better quality and customer service.
To be sure, marijuana growers have long employed technologies to breed desirable strains, and maximize growth and THC levels in plants. But the latest systems are more sophisticated and can address an unprecedented range of issues in more detail. As the industry evolves, newer systems will be even better.
“The industry is definitely still in its infant stage right now,” said Dan Stofka, chief technology officer atAgrisoft, a company out of Kansas City, Mo. that provides tracking and compliance software and other products to the cannabis industry. “It’s interesting to see the difference between each state as they learn and adopt systems to define and regulate the industry. Each state venue seems to vary somewhere between newborn and toddler.”
One of the biggest issues for cannabis businesses is staying on the right side of compliance mandates, which requires a high level of transparency. This is to ensure a higher level of safety. Agrisoft products help ensure this openness is possible.
Agrisoft’s Seed to Sale software documents every step, including manufacturing, wholesale and retail transactions. It also addresses all aspects of governmental and regulatory requirements: safety, compliance, authorization, traceability of products, and restricted access issues. .
“It holds and tracks inventory of the facility, and is a full point of sale system among many other intertwined functions,” Stofka said. “All products are delineated by location and sub-locations, making it easy to report where every item is.”
Seed to Sale reduces the time and headache of compliance while ensuring accuracy. It allows companies to focus more on industry growth.
“Technology opens up time for innovation in any market,” Stofka said. “We hope that our involvement is a facilitator of freeing time for the more important things needed to move the industry forward. We also pride ourselves on integrating with a multitude of other entities within the industry, and we know being inclusive is always going to move us forward faster than being exclusive.”
One interesting piece of technology the company is developing, in partnership with C4EverSystems, is an in-store automated kiosk. The kiosks are a combination electronic menu ordering and payment system. The ATM-type machines will allow customers to select their order via touchscreen and pay for it with cash, debit or credit card. A distributor then brings the purchased marijuana order to the customer.
The kiosks allow stores to more easily track sales, and generate necessary reports on transactions. They also make it easier for companies to use banks. This is no small issue: Many banks are still reluctant to deal directly with the cannabis industry.
Many businesses still rely most heavily on cash transactions. The kiosks keep the money safe until businesses can deposit it into a bank account.
“I feel this is a perfect example of what added technology can do [for the industry],” Stofka said. “Essentially it opens up possibilities and provides resources that were previously much more difficult to obtain.”
Another technology being developed by Agrisoft, and expected to play a big role in the coming years, is Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). Instead of hand-scanning individual plants and their barcodes, RFID will track plants as they move through a cultivation facility. “There is so much potential in what this technology can do,” Stofka said. “We are just starting to tap into the possibilities.”
For technology professionals in the cannabis industry, the pace of innovation and introduction of new technologies can seem dizzying. Stofka said there will be more big things ahead. “I believe this year you will see some things that will definitely wow you,” he said. “We do live demos for potential clients, and almost every week it seems the demo changes or gets longer as we include more features and functionality.”
via The Cannabist