The cannabis industry has a high affinity for disruptive trends. Consequently, pairing robotics with cannabis should be a no-brainer, even if it’s just for mere hype. That said, some forward-thinking companies have taken the plunge and tapped into the opportunity presented by “robotizing” mundane and repetitive tasks in the industry. They include the following:
- JIKO: A robot from Sorting Robotics that takes over packaging pre-rolls
- Headset.io: provides intelligence to help cannabis growers and dispensaries to make data-driven decisions
- Bloom Automation: A robot that selects and trims smokeable marijuana buds
Unlike human productivity which tapers off with time, robots have a predictable output that never wanes. They work significantly faster and hence bring down the cost of production.
According to the founder and CEO of Lavinia Katie Enright, the cost of producing cannabis products is so high. “Our products go through three phases of testing before it’s released to the public. Then, you add a 27% tax and they become even more expensive.” This is a sentiment that’s echoed by entrepreneurs across the industry. It’s no surprise that the illicit market is able to sell its products at significantly lower prices and hence maintain its clientele.
Robotics presents a unique opportunity to quash the illicit Cannabis market and enable legal cannabis businesses to boost their sales and increase their margins. That knowledge is probably no news.
However, some sources have questioned the practicability or usefulness of deploying robots to the cannabis industry. We spoke to Nohtal Partansky, co-founder and CEO of Sorting Robotics, who assuaged naysayer fears and went on to cite credible reasons why robots will play a key role in pushing the industry to the green zone in terms of profitability.
Robots have a high initial startup cost and hence can only be afforded by MSOs. This will kill the mom-and-pop cannabis businesses. What can you say about this?
Innovative business models like Robots-as-a-Service decrease those initial startup costs to make automation available to anyone with a manufacturing company no matter the scale. Our current product line embraces this model deeply as a way to reduce the barrier to entry and improve the efficiency of the whole industry.
The cannabis industry employs close to half a million Americans who are in dire need of their jobs at such a time when the economy is in a recession. Robots will be replacing human labor and hence rendering many jobless. What’s your take on this?
The industry is in a labor shortage so when robots enter the workforce they don’t displace jobs they allow companies to scale and meet demand. We need the cannabis industry to compete with the black market and a big way to do that is to decrease manufacturing costs. Those people are and will still be needed because they will probably be doing more rewarding jobs than putting weed into jars every day.
Most robot projects over-promise but fail miserably in the end. What have been some of the causes of robot failures and what features in Jiko guarantee that it will be a success?
Shots fired! Haha.
Well, many of those robots have been modified from other industries to work in the cannabis world. That’s probably why they failed.
We designed Jiko from the ground up specifically for working with cannabis products and materials. The machine was built by operators for operators, full stop.
It was a great pleasure to have Nohtal weigh in on this conversation and we wish Sorting Robotics the very best with Jiko and all their other projects.