3 Reasons Commercial Cannabis Cultivators Should Ditch Their Whiteboards

It’s 2019, legal cannabis is becoming the norm, and we’re seeing some of the most impressive advancements in science and technology happening in this industry, especially in cultivation facilities. So why are many commercial growers still using whiteboards and notebooks to track and record data? Now’s the time to get out of the dark ages and get digital! I can’t think of a more antiquated tool to be used in the most progressive and hyped industry since.. ever. The cannabis industry is maturing and it’s time for the tools used by commercial cultivators to grow up too. Sorry whiteboards, it’s nothing personal, but you’re not cutting it anymore. Here are just some of the problems with using whiteboards as an organizational tool:

No Historical Data:

Using whiteboards to record conditions or assign tasks means that at the end of the day or week, all of that data is erased and gone forever. Having digital, historical data allows you to evaluate successful, and not so successful, batches and determine what caused the outcome. Although whiteboards and notebooks have been the status quo for decades, these tools are inadequate for commercial scale operations. Even for small scale growers, if you’re interested in learning from the past, you need to be tracking data digitally. Look for software built for this exact purpose, that will graph data over time, offer helpful analytics, or create custom reports. Also, you’ll want to find software that correlates all of your cultivation data together, because there are so many intertwined variables that can impact harvests.


Limited Access to Data:

Information on a whiteboard is only valuable to those standing directly in front of the whiteboard. This may strike you as obvious, but anyone who works in a commercial cannabis facility can tell you that they’re BUSY. People are jumping through hoops just to run a compliant business and any service that’s convenient will win. Tracking conditions, light cycles, and daily activities in an app is far more convenient than a whiteboard. With an app like Trym, you’ll always know where your plants are, what the current conditions are, and what your team is up to. You won’t need to walk around and search all of this info out yourself.

Not Competitive:

The cannabis market has attracted massive amounts of attention and as a result has become highly competitive. If you’re looking for a way to differentiate your business, beyond growing dank flower (because there’s a lot of that), getting your internal processes dialed in and stepping things up with new technology is a great way to compete and thrive. By using software to track data across your operation, you’ll get a comprehensive view of productivity and can begin to understand how different activities affect things like yield and profitability. Through data collection and analysis, growers can begin to tweak their process to either reduce costs, increase yields, or even manipulate terpene profiles (probably the most exciting)!

Historical data is valuable – especially when collected and organized in a way that’s easy to interpret. Having reliable, digital data means that you can analyze and learn from it. Make changes; improvements; experiment and tweak things. You can’t easily learn from data recorded in a notebook or on a whiteboard. By combining data collection and analysis into one automated process, the data you collect is immediately useful. So it’s time to upgrade those old-school tools! What’s great about Trym software, is that you get the added bonus of analytics just by using the app to monitor conditions and assign & track tasks. We take all of the data collected from environmental sensors and user inputs and analyze it for our customers – because we know growers are busy!

Every business can benefit from data analytics. You can improve your production quality, boost employee morale, and geek out on cool stuff like what exact temp. and humidity different strains prefer. Knowledge is power and now’s the time to tap into the potential of your cultivation data!

What the Cannabis Industry Can Learn From the Rise of the Solar Industry

Target solar installation using SunPower Helix product conceptualized and launched by Matt Mayberry during his time at SunPower

My career in solar began in 2009, just after the U.S. housing market crash left the stock market and construction industry in shambles. I decided to leave my career in civil engineering in order to find a position in the newly budding industry of solar power, which was one of the fastest growing industries at the time and offered an opportunity for me to combine my passion for environmentalism with my love of technology. I studied solar briefly in college and knew the basics but I was far from an expert in the field. In order to break into the industry, I took a position as a low-level engineer at a young solar startup. A year and a half later I’d become a knowledgeable solar engineer and I accepted a job at SunPower, a leading manufacturer of high-quality solar products. Over the next 7 years I worked my way up through the ranks, eventually ending up as Director of Product Management, responsible for product strategy of a department worth $300 million in sales annually.

At the end of 2017, I decided to leave the solar industry to pursue my dream of starting a cannabis tech company, again combining another of my passions, cannabis, with my love for technology. After co-founding Trym, I found that the cannabis industry is currently at a similar place in its evolution to where the solar industry was when I first joined.  As can be seen in the graph below, the U.S. solar power market took off in 2009, and by 2017 it had grown 38 times the size from when I first joined. The time I spent in solar, combined with my recent experiences starting Trym, has given me a unique perspective into the similarities between the cannabis industry and the early days of the solar industry.

U.S. Annual Solar (PV) Capacity 2010-2016

Source: GTM Research

Here are some similarities I’ve observed between the cannabis industry and the pre-mainstream solar industry and what to be aware of as the market continues to grow:

  • Projections of explosive growth. Legal cannabis has gained significant traction worldwide due to high demand among consumers as well as increasing legalization of cannabis in various states within the U.S. It’s impressive how far the industry has come since 1996, when California first legalized cannabis for medical use. Now over 60% of Americans live in states where they can legally access cannabis and 25% live in states where they can purchase it for recreational use. These statistics are remarkable, which is why it’s hard to imagine that despite all of the growth the industry has experienced, it’s still just the beginning. The U.S. market is expected to quadruple over the next 8 years, with spending expected to exceed $47 billion by 2027.

 

  • Heavily regulated, segmented market made up of thousands of distributed small businesses. Similar to cannabis, the solar industry is an incredibly regulated industry. Each state and local jurisdiction has their own laws, regulatory bodies, and regional specific incentive programs. Because of these market conditions it was common, initially, for solar businesses to focus on specific regional markets, which led to a highly distributed market comprised of thousands of small businesses. These same conditions exist in the cannabis industry today. Although the majority of states have legalized cannabis, interstate commerce is not possible due to federal prohibition and within each state there are unique regulations that must be understood and navigated. This is why even the largest brands in the cannabis industry are not present in every market and small to midsize businesses, distributed across the U.S., make up the lion-share of the industry.

 

  • If you build it, they will come. My first job in the solar industry was at a small startup where I was one of the first employees hired. This is a similar story shared by many pioneers in the early days of solar since the growth projections of the market led many from various other industries to flock to the solar industry. Some joined for a passion for the industry, some joined with aspirations of wealth, and some joined for a combination of both. These startups had a period of time to thrive, but eventually, as more brands entered the space, competition increased in all areas of the market. Well-capitalized, large corporations that were capable of operating nationally or internationally began entering the market. Many of the small businesses that had helped form the industry began getting squeezed out. Similarly, growth projections of cannabis has drawn significant attention from the media, investors, and entrepreneurs. As with the early days of solar, the combination of capitalization and innovation has led to an onslaught of startups entering the space. The result is that a multitude of companies are attempting to become the best at solving a relatively fixed number of problems that exist in the market. This increase in competition will undoubtedly result in some brands prevailing and others missing out. Additionally, when you factor in companies such as Microsoft, Anheuser Busch, and Monsanto circling the industry with intentions, or in some cases, demonstrated action, to enter the space, it creates a recipe for inevitable consolidation and unfortunately, expiration dates for some brands.

 

To sum things up, with nascent markets, change is the only constant. The opportunity that the growing cannabis market represents is one that everyone involved should appreciate but also not take for granted. Understand that the business you’re building or that you’re working for will look much different in the future. To remain successful you must ensure that your business is built to be nimble and adaptable. Design your business objectives and plans with the best information that you have at the time, but recognize that with forecasting, you’re either lucky or you’re wrong, so be ready to revisit and tweak your plan regularly.

Competition, Consistency & Scalability: How to Overcome Key Challenges Commercial Cannabis Growers Face in 2019

Navigating the complexities of the commercial cannabis market can be daunting. The industry has gained national attention over recent years, allowing for explosive growth and attracting the interest of mainstream industries. As the cannabis market continues to mature, it’s necessary to consider three key factors that can make or break your business; competition, scalability and consistency.

Competition

All states are not created equal when it comes to competition for cannabis cultivators. Prices are falling fast across the board, but drops are much steeper in many of the more mature markets. In Oregon, for example, there was previously no limit on the number of grow licenses the state issued, which in turn flooded the market with product causing a staggering price drop of 65% in 2018.

What does this mean for you?

If you’re new to the game, establishing your footprint in the newer markets where prices are more robust and there is less risk of overproduction (think Michigan and Utah) is one way to go. If you’re already set up in an established cannabis market, competition is likely unavoidable and your best bet is to focus on efficiency to remain profitable. Looking at labor and energy costs and how to mitigate them, will have the greatest impact on your bottom line.

Another way cannabis cultivators everywhere can curb the competition is to differentiate themselves in the market with a strong brand and by building a loyal customer base. You can rep product quality, growing methods (organic farming, sun grown, living soil) or other unique selling propositions like in-house genetics, remarkable terpene profiles or high THC content flower. These are all things that consumers get excited about and want to consider when buying cannabis products. An example from outside of the cannabis industry of consumer preference for quality over price can be seen in the U.S. beer industry. In 2017, U.S.-brewed beer experienced the largest percentage decrease in annual shipments since 1954, while sales of craft beer increased by 5.5%.

Scalability

As the market has grown, the overall scale of cannabis operations has increased proportionally. Cultivators are taking on more production space and as a result, have experienced growing pains (some pun intended). Larger cultivation operations can lead to larger problems. It’s much more time consuming to perform routine observations to ensure plant health when there are significantly more plants to observe. Increased operations also require larger teams and as teams grow, it becomes difficult to maintain efficient communication and individual accountability. Especially when operations are spread across multiple facilities or even states, making keeping everyone aligned with business objectives and informed of operational data a challenge.

What does this mean for you?

Simply put, your team is everything. Your operation is only as strong and efficient as your team. Take the time to make smart hiring decisions. Find skilled people with a passion for cannabis and train them well. Give them the resources they need to succeed – it will cost more, but it will be worth it! Consider using software that will align your team, keep them on track, and enable real-time data collection so management can track key performance indicators across facilities and teams.

Consistency

Providing a consistent experience for consumers remains one of the biggest challenges for cannabis cultivators, especially for medical producers. Patients need a predictable outcome every time they consume medicine, and historically when it comes to cannabis, no two ‘doses’ are identical. Additionally, with the rise in recreational sales, the industry has seen a meaningful increase in new consumers. As people explore the vast market of cannabis products, ensuring their experience is pleasant, measurable and repeatable is essential to retaining their business. Beyond customer experience, cannabis businesses need to be able to consistently predict yields, keep production costs down, and keep the team firing on all cylinders in order to be successful.

What does this mean for you?

There are numerous factors at play when growing cannabis and many areas that influence the outcome of a harvest, which can make consistency a beast! Having a controlled environment is a great step forward, but also ensuring employees perform tasks consistently, monitoring growth cycles, and tracking batch results is necessary to provide you with a complete view of your operation. Take advantage of available technology such as environmental controls, team management software, and software systems that allow you to track batches and yields in order to keep your operation consistent and performing optimally.

The best thing cannabis cultivators can do to establish themselves in the market and be competitive is: invest in their team, focus on efficiency, take advantage of available technology, and create a brand authentic to themselves. By doing all of this, and of course, producing a quality product, growers can bank on a prosperous future.