The medical cannabis industry has made significant progress harnessing consumer data to tailor cannabinoids to better serve the unique needs of patients.
Still, cannabis is a complex plant, with thousands of unique strains each containing its own blend of compounds. The unique properties of cannabinoids and the dosage consumed can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of medical cannabis. Medical cannabis is not something that should be used haphazardly or randomly. Accurate dosing is one of the greatest challenges facing medical cannabis physicians and product developers today. For all the progress that has been made since jurisdictions began legalizing cannabis, there is still a massive gap in cannabis knowledge. Fortunately, valuable consumer data is being generated on a constant basis across every corner of the cannabis industry. The key now is to create the means for collecting and sharing that data in order to optimize development and improve operations at all levels of the industry.
Consumer data lacking in cannabis
Researchers, physicians and product developers working with cannabis today are striving to make up for decades of lost time. Cannabis was, and remains, a schedule one substance in the United States, which has kept the plant out of the hands of researchers. California became the first jurisdiction to permit medical cannabis in 1996 and Canada became the first nation to do so in 2001, but 23 years of study in limited capacity has not been enough to fill the knowledge gap. There is still a fair amount to be learned about how to best utilize medical cannabis.
Compounding the issue it the current fragmentation of the cannabis market in North America. Cannabis remains federally illegal in the US, even though as of December 2019, 33 out of 50 US states have legalized cannabis to some degree. This has prevented cannabis companies from conducting business across state lines, forcing companies to operate within their home jurisdiction. The same is true when operating cannabis-related networks across the US-Canada border. This can make it difficult for various cannabis stakeholders to share information with each other. While there is now an incredible amount of valuable data being generated by cannabis businesses every single day, that data is often effectively inaccessible to the people who could truly put it to work.
Dosing is one of the key areas where greater access to medical cannabis data could benefit consumers, physicians and patients. Medical cannabis is most commonly inhaled through vaporization or taken orally from a tincture, but these methods are notoriously difficult to measure out in a precise dosage. Any given strain can have a very different combination of cannabinoids from another. Even two specimens with identical genetics can vary due to different growing conditions. Data on which cannabis products are being used, how they are being used and their results could enable medical cannabis producers to refine their products to better target specific uses for maximum effectiveness.
“Accurate dosing information that is cross-referenced with the plant strain information and patient demographics is a critically important component in helping growers, dispensaries, hospitals and clinics understand in real-time, the effects of the plant on patients,” Gregory Wagner, CEO of RYAH Medtech Inc. told INN. “This not only helps the medical community recommend appropriate strains but may also lead to better growth strategies for more optimal patient outcomes.”
Consumer data informing the medical cannabis industry
Cannabis companies like RYAH Medtech are beginning to develop cannabis delivery methods that offer accurate dosing, allowing patients and consumers to regulate the amount of cannabis they consume. The company has developed a smart vaporizer device as well as the accompanying software for patient-specific customization and data collection. RYAH’s vaporizer measures dosage from proprietary smart cartridges based on strain information provided by the cannabis producer and specifications from a doctor. The device allows cannabis producers that use the smart cartridges to access data on their specific products in order to improve product improvement. It also generates insights that can be used by patients and physicians to improve treatments.
“By providing users with unprecedented temperature and dose control, the RYAH dose-measuring vaporizer creates a consistent and replicable vaporizing experience. The state-of-the-art device comes accompanied by a mobile app that puts the patient or medical practitioner in total control and enables them to collect information to track usage and results,” said Wagner.
There are all kinds of ways to extract valuable data from day-to-day operations across every corner of the cannabis industry. A number of companies have begun to crowdsource data directly from the consumer through basic surveys and elaborate platforms that allow cannabis consumers to share their preferences and report the results of their cannabis experiences. Leafly has become one of the largest sources of cannabis information online and in doing so has built a massive database of cannabis consumers from which valuable consumer data is crowdsourced. Canadian business technology company Cannvas MedTech (CSE:MTEC) has launched an educational platform called Cannvas.me that generates user data which is then analyzed by the company’s Cannvas Data division to create insight on the needs and wants of cannabis consumers. Cannvas sees its platform as the “census data of the cannabis industry.”
Data from point-of-sale systems at cannabis retail locations can also be used as a valuable source of information regarding cannabis consumer preferences. This can help cannabis companies to identify target demographics and optimize their offerings based on consumer data.
Terabytes of valuable data are being generated every hour across the cannabis industry. Cannabis companies, researchers and physicians are incentivized to use that data to improve the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis. Smart devices that generate data in real-time could be the most valuable tool yet for expanding medical cannabis knowledge.
This article was originally published by the Investing News Network in October 2019.
The legalization of cannabis is enabling additional research regarding cannabinoids and the medical potential of cannabis compounds.
The popularization of cannabidiol (CBD) has been a revolution for the cannabis industry. Researchers have known for decades that the cannabis plant offers a vast plethora of different compounds. In the 2010s, CBD became used as a treatment to change the lives of children suffering from devastating illnesses when many other treatments had failed. After the remarkable success of these treatments in highly exposed cases like that of Charlotte Figi, the treatment became recognized as a viable option. The resulting media attention introduced the average consumer to a previously unknown compound and a world of possibility for cannabis medicine. Since then CBD has changed the face of cannabis in the minds of the public and created the fastest-growing segment of the cannabis industry.
Cannabis companies are increasingly turning to experienced cannabis growers and industry veterans to design their cultivation operations.
The legal American cannabis industry is no different. Experienced cannabis cultivators are certainly harder to find than other industry professionals, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. The earliest legal medical cannabis markets now go back more than 20 years and these markets have generated a wealth of valuable experience. That said, very few people gave the nascent industry any attention until recently. As legal cannabis spreads across North America and beyond, the pioneers of early legal markets are leveraging their experience to build a new wave of cannabis businesses, setting the standards for best practices that could define the new industry landscape.
With an unprecedented number of legal medical and recreational cannabis jurisdictions opening up over the past several years, the North American cannabis market is growing at an incredible rate. According to a March 2019 report by Research and Markets, the North American industry is expected to reach a value of US$35 billion by 2023, up from US$8 billion in 2017 for a compound annual growth rate of 28 percent.
Cannabis growers leveraging experience
As the cannabis industry becomes established and more players enter the game, quality, consistency and safety have become the priorities for those companies that want to stick around. There are countless factors across all stages of the cannabis production and supply chain that can have an impact on operating cost and product yield. For example, lighting, air conditions, soil quality, product processing and many other factors can greatly influence how successful a cannabis crop will be.
Cannabis cultivation is a complicated process that requires a very specific and unique skillset. In this growing industry, more people than ever before are learning the trade, meaning operations often include personnel from all over the learning curve. At the top of any grow operation, however, should be a management team comprised of veterans with hands-on experience in cannabis cultivation. While newcomers to the industry can learn these nuances over time, the highly competitive cannabis industry has left little room for those learning on the go.
“The best practices of commercial cultivation are based on trial and error. It’s still an art and not yet a documented science, so the only thing that yields superior-quality flower is the years of experience we have,” said Sheldon Aberman, Chemistree Technology’s (CSE:CHM,OTCQB:CHMJF) chief cannabis officer.
There’s no shortage of workers looking to get into the cannabis industry. Lately, a number of executives from other industries, particularly from the mining industry, have seen opportunity and crossed over into the cannabis business. True cannabis industry experts, however, are much harder to come by. Because cannabis has historically been cultivated by those outside of the law, the pool of experienced growers is relatively small compared to those in other consumer industries. Companies that are able to attract talented growers will find themselves at an advantage as they establish the business and begin to navigate a complex legal cannabis environment.
Savvy cannabis companies are looking to the pioneers of the North American cannabis industry to find top talent. California made history in 1996 by becoming the first jurisdiction to allow the sale of medical cannabis, while Canada introduced medical cannabis in 2001. As such, cannabis professionals in these jurisdictions have enjoyed a considerable head start in gaining industry experience. New cannabis companies have the opportunity to benefit from the lessons and experiences of those who have been in the industry for years. By targeting veterans of legal cannabis jurisdictions, new entrants into the market have the chance to leverage years of experience and expertise.
Cannabis growers defining the industry
When assembling the company’s leadership group, vertically integrated cannabis company Chemistree Technology recognized that hands-on cannabis industry experience would be an essential component. In order to ensure this expertise was reflected by management, the company created the position of chief cannabis officer, a job that demands robust knowledge of every aspect of the cannabis business. To fill this role, the company selected Sheldon Aberman, who has been involved with the cultivation side of the legal cannabis industry since 2003 and has been a part of the design and management of thousands of commercial cannabis grows.
Aberman isn’t the first industry veteran to join the Chemistree leadership team.
The company includes Dennis Hunter as a founding partner and adviser. Hunter has been involved in cannabis cultivation and activism for more than 25 years, building cannabis brands like Care By Design and Canna Craft during his impressive career. Hunter was recently named one of 2018’s 100 most influential figures in the cannabis space by High Times.
The cannabis industry is developing at a dizzying pace, and it’s no surprise that business leaders from across the industrial landscape are looking to get involved. While these leaders certainly have a lot to bring to the table, cannabis industry veterans have the opportunity to translate their operational experience into financial success.
Athletes and pro sports organizations are increasingly turning to cannabidiol (CBD) pain relief options as a means of recovery.
Some of the world’s largest arenas could soon become proving grounds for the benefits of CBD. The non-psychoactive cannabinoid is becoming increasingly popular due to its potential to provide low-risk relief from pain and inflammation. However, skepticism remains about its benefits. Fortunately for CBD stakeholders and advocates, those who stand to benefit from these treatments are also some of the most influential people in the world. High-level athletes push their bodies to the absolute limits, making them uniquely suited to benefit from the remedial effects of CBD. As athletes turn to CBD’s benefits, there is an opportunity for CBD sports drinks and supplements to gain recognition as a new sub-category in medical cannabis.
CBD pain relief
CBD affects the body in a very different way than its psychoactive cousin tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Whereas THC interacts directly with cannabinoid receptors in the brain and brainstem to produce the characteristic high feeling, CBD interacts with receptors found throughout the body to encourage the increased production of endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are naturally produced compounds released by the body to regulate, among other functions, the body’s response to pain and inflammation. This function explains why consumers of CBD report relief from ailments like muscle soreness and chronic pain.
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The athletic and fitness space has the potential to become a natural fit for CBD. Whether someone is on the grueling workout regimen of a professional athlete or simply staying in shape with regular trips to the gym, workouts can involve some degree of pain. In addition to normal workout pain and soreness, injury is a common part of living an active lifestyle, be it from broken bones, torn muscles or sprained joints. Even after these injuries are fully healed, lingering pain and inflammation can be a hindrance when trying to get back into a regular workout routine. For everyday pain, CBD provides a valuable alternative for athletes who are wary of the side effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or the potential for addiction involved with opioid-based painkillers.
CBD producers have begun developing products specifically for high-intensity workouts and athletics. In September 2019, for example, Canadian hemp producer Sire Bioscience (CSE:SIRE,OTC Pink:BLLXF,FWB:BR1B) entered into an agreement with sports nutrition supplement company Fusion Nutrition to develop a CBD-based sports nutrition supplement. As part of the agreement, the two companies will conduct scientific study and analysis of the CBD and sports nutrition industries to develop “best-in-class deliverable methods.”
“Within the sports nutrition space, a more obvious synergy has never presented itself,” said Fusion President Ryan Herniman. “With our combined experience in the world of CPGs, we’ll not only be able to develop world-class offerings but we’ll be able to help a lot of people and that motivates us tremendously. It’s an exciting new time in sports nutrition and we’re thrilled to be working with Sire on this initiative.”
After encouraging early results, Sire Bioscience signed a letter of intent to acquire all outstanding shares of Fusion Nutrition. The company’s extensive network of over 800 points of distribution has the potential to drive growth for Sire as it works to launch unique products within the CBD and sports nutrition space. Sire is expected to pay between C$400,000 and C$700,000 for the full transaction.
More recently, major Canadian cannabis producer Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC,TSX:WEED) acquired a 72 percent stake in sports drink company BioSteel Sports Nutrition. BioSteel is already a leading brand among professional athletes, including 28 National Hockey League (NHL) teams, 15 National Basketball Association teams and 18 Major League Baseball teams. Canopy’s acquisition of the company paves the way for the development of a CBD-infused sports drink developed specifically for use by professional athletes.
Encompassing goods like protein powders, protein bars, creatine supplements and functional beverages, the global sports nutrition market is projected to reach more than US$44 billion by 2021, according to data by Allied Market Research. The hemp-derived CBD industry, meanwhile, could be worth as much as US$22 billion by 2022, according to data by the Brightfield Group. With significant investment expected in the space, both cannabis producers and sports nutrition companies are well-positioned to serve the intersection of the two markets.
CBD pain relief embraced by athletes
The world of elite sports is just beginning to warm to CBD. In 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances, allowing Olympic athletes to tap into the benefits of CBD without fear of failing a drug test. In the NHL, the widespread use of cannabinoids for pain relief and relaxation is something of an open secret. Former NHLer Mike Cammalleri started using CBD towards the end of his playing career as injury-related pain began to take its toll and has since become a vocal advocate.
“You’d be stupid not to at least look into it,” Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid told The Associated Press in 2018. “When your body’s sore like it is sometimes, you don’t want to be taking pain stuff and taking Advil all the time. There are obviously better ways to do it … You’re seeing a lot of smart guys look into it. You’re seeing a lot of really smart doctors look into it. If all the boxes are checked there and it’s safe and everything like that, then I think you would maybe hear them out.”
The NHL could be where CBD finally finds mainstream acceptance in the world of professional sports. Although the league has made clear that it does not advocate for cannabis consumption in any form, cannabis is not a prohibited substance in the NHL. This is in stark contrast to other major professional leagues such as the National Football League and Major League Baseball. CBD is legal in all but three NHL cities, the most of any major North American league. As more players continue to benefit from CBD, other leagues could soon take notice. Should CBD become common and accepted in the world of professional sports, the potential benefits are likely to become understood by the general active public as well.
CBD has demonstrated benefits for athletic pain and soreness relief. Its use by professional athletes is perhaps one of the best testimonials it could receive. As CBD becomes more accepted in the big leagues, it’s likely to become even more popular among the general active public as well. The widespread adoption of CBD as a remedial health product could lead to a major opportunity for CBD companies looking to serve the active demographic.
Skateboarding icon Tony Hawk recently sat down with TransWorld Skateboarding to talk about his partnership with 1933 Industries’ (CSE:TGIF,OTCQX:TGIFF) Canna Hemp X line. Hawk discusses his own experience discovering the benefits of CBD as the 51-year-old pro-skater has turned to products like Canna Hemp X for relief from aches and pains.
“When I first heard about CBD I didn’t really understand it and I have since come around to believing in it greatly. I mean, I’m 51. I use it every day,” Hawk says in the video. “It really does keep me loose. It keeps me healthy. I’m not sore every day waking up like I have been in years past.”
Cannabis cultivation is the foundation of the cannabis industry, leading many growers to develop new methods to yield the best possible crop.
Humans have been perfecting the art of agricultural cultivation for thousands of years; however, the legalization of cannabis in North America has created a demand for new innovations in cultivation techniques and practices. Cannabis companies looking to develop an edge in an ultra-competitive market have been working to rethink and reinvent cultivation technology.
The cannabis industry in its current form is new, but cannabis cultivators have been leaders in agricultural innovation for decades. Producing an agricultural commodity in a black market presented a unique challenge, and growers needed to figure out how to efficiently grow a quality product with limited space, lighting, water and electricity. The resulting “underground” innovations have created a technological foundation for today’s legal industry to build highly efficient growing operations.
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Today, the cannabis industry is out of the shadows. Cultivation technology that at one time would have needed to be developed stealthily is now being carried out in the light of day with the aid of major investment from legitimate sources. The green rush has fueled a wave of innovation as the cannabis space becomes a fiercely competitive marketplace. Cannabis companies are pursuing every avenue to develop a better product at a lower cost than their competition. This involves choosing from a wide range of growing systems including traditional soil, hydro and aeroponics while finding ways to innovate and improve on these methods. Through legislative changes and financial support, cannabis cultivation technology is now developing at a faster pace than ever before.
Cannabis cultivation: A balancing act
Across the industry, cannabis companies are taking very different approaches when they design or license their cultivation systems, but the objectives remain the same. Optimization considerations for grow systems fall into five categories; quality, simplicity, yield size, cost and consistency. A higher-quality product often returns higher margins and results in a better consumer experience. Companies also tend to prefer simplicity in their grow systems to allow for lower labor and maintenance costs. Cultivators look to produce the largest yields possible while keeping the cost per gram as low as possible. Consistency is an important factor as well since repeatable yield and quality ensure a reliable consumer experience while allowing companies to better plan ahead.
Nearly all cultivators consider these aforementioned factors when deciding how to grow their product. Depending on a particular company’s targeted segment of the market, they may accept a higher production cost per gram in order to deliver a high-end product. Conversely, they may prioritize lower costs to deliver a more affordable product. It’s a delicate balancing act that forces companies to seriously evaluate their individual priorities. However, a number of cultivators are beginning to develop techniques that result in a quality product without inefficiencies. By developing innovative growing systems that optimize the process in ways not previously possible, cannabis companies can find ways to optimize quality and cost without making significant sacrifices.
Innovative cannabis cultivation systems
Hydroponics is by no means a new concept in the cannabis cultivation space. It was initially beneficial to cannabis growers as a space-saving innovation, but has stuck around because the method allows plants to grow faster by more easily obtaining nutrients. In the legal era, cannabis companies have been able to continuously improve and optimize these systems to use resources more efficiently, improving growth rates while lowering costs.
Ontario-based licensed producer CannabCo Pharmaceutical has chosen to design its own innovative hydroponic system rather than using a pre-existing commercially available system. By going its own way, CannabCo says that the company has been able to develop a system that can produce cannabis for under 50 cents per gram. CannabCo says that its PHOENIX system compounds multiple technologies that play on each other to enhance the benefits of each factor individually.
“PHOENIX was developed simply because we did not see anything in the market that we liked from a commercial hydroponic cultivation system. It was developed for in-house use, and not to market as a grow technology or system for profit related to marketing the technology,” CannabCo CEO Mark Pellicane told the Investing News Network. “PHOENIX provides CannabCo with a disruptive technological advantage in that the technology was designed to grow a top-shelf quality product suitable for dissemination to the medical industry as well as recreational markets.”
Companies that are looking to save more on space and water are turning to an even more radical vertical farming technique originally developed by NASA. Aeroponics takes the direct nutrient feeding concept of hydroponics while removing most of the hydro component. Instead of submerging the roots of cannabis plants and continuously pumping nutrient-rich water through the system, aeroponics suspends the roots in mid-air with the plant supported by the stock while a system of nozzles regularly sprays the roots with a nutrient-rich atomized mist. This method creates fewer waste nutrients, requires significantly less water and takes up less space per plant than hydroponics. Cannabis company James E. Wagner Cultivation (TSXV:JWCA) is one of the companies currently utilizing aeroponic cultivation in pursuit of low-cost cannabis production.
Other companies are taking a mix-and-match approach in search of their cultivation edge. Pure Global Cannabis (TSXV:PURE,OTC Pink:PRCNF,FWB:1QS) has developed a unique “multi-ponic” system that takes elements from hydroponics, aeroponics and three other vertical farming techniques. Pure Global’s system creates a “closed-loop” that allows for better and more efficient distribution and absorption of nutrients. The system allows growers the flexibility to adjust the growing conditions for the needs of each unique stage of the plants’ development.
A number of growers are now leveraging internet-of-things technology and automation in order to reduce production costs and maintain consistency. By using an array of sensors and artificial intelligence to automatically see to the plants’ needs, companies are able to cut down on man-hours and reduce the potential for human error that can prove unpredictable for quality and yield size. Water Ways Technologies (TSXV:WWT) has designed an interconnected system to be licensed by cannabis growers and small-to-medium-size-farmers. The CANNAWAYS system uses internet-of-things connectivity to automate the irrigation, fertilization and climate conditions of hydroponic crops.
Necessity breeds innovation, and in a market as competitive as the legal cannabis industry, innovation is necessary to build and maintain an edge over the competition. Companies that are able to find new ways to grow a better, more consistent product at the lowest possible cost could be well-positioned to find the competitive edge that it takes to thrive in the cannabis business.