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The Internet of Cannabis: How Sensor-Based Networks and Precision Horticulture are Going Next Level

By Reece Loftus
December 19, 2022

As the legalization of both medical and recreational cannabis continues to take hold across the U.S. and around the world, investments are pouring into Industry 4.0 cannabis growing operations and taking the art, science, and business of pharma quality cultivation to the next level.

Last week, a new company opened its doors officially in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where it has been working with scientists, researchers, clinical trial leaders, and pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, and consumer brand cannabis companies to grow a wide variety of premium crops.

PharmCloud is approaching the opportunity with its Grow as a Service (GaaS) offering, which is similar in some ways to how data centers create space and provide services to multiple customers, each with its own standards, needs, and regulations.

Having worked with an ecosystem of partners, the founders have mastered the entire connected system, calling it Cannabis Industry 4.0, with sensors placed throughout the growth process. These IoT elements enable monitoring and managing everything from water to temperature, nutrients, light, and signaling when crops should be harvested and moved to a drying area (using robotics) and then into packaging the raw materials for applications across the spectrum.

The PharmCloud systems relies on data generated by many sensors for analysis using software installed on-site and processed locally, while also being shipped to "PharmaCloud1," so that multiple physical locations can be managed and monitored remotely, reducing costs and dramatically improving quality.

While IoT has become central to professional cannabis farming, both indoor and outdoor, this is the first time we've seen such a comprehensive system put in place – tested – and made available, with a roadmap calling for building more and more facilities.

Privately held and funded by investors in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the first facility has been operating for a year, PharmCloud's platform not only sends basic email and text notifications but has gone much further by creating a closed-loop system based on policy, automation, and AI that enables adjustments to be made (for example dimming the lighting or adding nutrients).

Cannabis is a temperamental crop and difficult to produce predictably and with guaranteed quality without the use of precision microclimate control, workflow, timeline and task management, and scientific methodologies. These advanced technologies also reduce waste (and cost) while delivering a premium product and experience, according to Dr. Yaron Penn, co-founder and co-CEO of PharmCloud, and the IP company behind the technology (Hortica).

According to a recent report by Grand View Research, the global legal marijuana market size was valued at $13.2 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 25.5% from 2022 to 2030.

Given the rapidly increasing demand for cannabis-based pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals, Grand View says, "The FDA and other such associations have now started accepting the marijuana derivatives for the prescription of diseases in which it has proven to be useful. This is another factor for the quick turnaround of its legal status in many countries. North America (the U.S. and Canada) has gone a step further and has sanctioned the use of recreational marijuana as well, and more than two-thirds of the U.S. states have legalized marijuana."

"We are applying industry 4.0 revolution technologies to the global cannabis industry using automated and autonomous cultivation techniques," said Dr. Penn. "Our proprietary technology includes full-stack edge computing that is connected to dozens of sensors that control small or large batches of uniquely grown plants within a closed loop vertical farming operation. This enables consistently superior cannabis with chemical profiles, which our AI platform monitors and controls 24/7."

Led by a team of highly experienced horticulture experts and cannabis researchers, and scientists, PharmCloud believes diversity is the key to perfection.

"Every human being is unique, born with different genetics, in different locations, with different ethnic origins," Dr. Penn said. More people are adopting personalized diets and lifestyles and choosing different medical options. The same goes for cannabis plants and the broad repertoire of genotypes, phenotypes, and phytochemical profiles."

For purveyors of cannabis products to consumers, PharmCloud brings unique blends to the market with premium aromas and experiences. Brands can market uniquely packaged products to attract consumers just as fashion, cosmetics, food, supplements, whisky, wine, and cigar brands do.

PharmCloud is the first company in the world to promise and deliver consistent quality, aroma, and experience for consumers in every state, making it possible for brands to expand, knowing all requirements are met through their GaaS system, which the announcement claims "can simultaneously customize, manufacture, and supply dozens of consistent, repeatable, and fully traceable small batches of different strains, which has been found to be extremely valuable to Medical Cannabis developers in the pharmaceutical industry."

Rooted in academia and pharma, PharmCloud was built from the top down to comply with the requirements necessary for clinical trials and disease or patient personalization. The first facility in Tulsa is driven to become the first FDA\GMP grow facility in the US. The technology drives PharmCloud facility enables the company to offer a variety of profiles in consistent, repeatable, safe, "Beyond Organic" stable, and traceable small batches.

PharmCloud provides the cleanest, most consistent cannabis as an ingredient for nutraceutical companies that are creating supplements including cannabis, food that includes cannabis, and beverages infused with cannabis. Rather than building their own labs and facilities, nutraceutical brands count on PharmCloud's GaaS to power up new products and accelerate the time to market for those products.

PharmCloud's first facility in the US uses no pesticides in their system because there is no need – not even pesticides that are allowed and organic.

By leveraging automated monitoring using hundreds of sensors that track everything from moisture to nutrients and can predict when plants are ready for harvesting and drying, ParmCloud is able to offer the world's first personalized, pure, chemical-free consumer grow service for legal recreational and medical cannabis users.

David Lechner, Director of Operations and Safety, said, "Our state-of-the-art facility upholds the ultimate in security standards, both outside and inside the location, and our commitment to the highest standards for cleanliness and worker safety is unmatched in the cannabis cultivation industry."

"Whether you are seeking one artisanal quality, flavor, and experience for your product, or you wish to offer a range of completely unique and 100% pure and consistent cannabis-based products, PharmCloud's operation can help you develop and grow your own," Dr. Penn said. "Our operation is carbon-neutral, sustainably operated, and run with expertise, transparency at all levels, and exclusive analytic methods. We provide consistently superior quality control and assurance and a new level of partnership with our customers who have been instrumental in the development of our mission and roadmap."

Continuous research and development efforts are focused on PharmCloud's goal to deliver universal, predictable, and profitable crops, enhanced through sensors and software systems which include artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous actions, and natural genetic reproduction.

Edited by Erik Linask

Contributing Editor

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