Automated Cannabis Production Could Change an Entire Industry

Automated Cannabis Production Could Change an Entire Industry

Automation is a process that promises to change every facet of employment. Love it or hate it, its here to stay and its changing how we conceive of work forever. No one is safe… Not even marijuana. As one of the newest industries to enter the picture, cannabis production might be a particularly good candidate for a robot takeover. As the newest trend in a booming industry, automated cannabis production merits some scrutiny. Let’s look at a few ways in which robots might dominate the cannabis landscape.

Aphria is the First to Explore Automated Cannabis Production

Aphria founders, machine work in marijuana industry
John Cervini, co-founder of Aphria is not concerned about machines taking over the cannabis industry… But should he be? (image via Aphria)

Aphria is one of the largest licensed producers in Canada. Currently, the Ontario based company boasts agreements of supply with all Canadian provinces and one territory.

Come legalization Aphria is set to churn out boatloads of cannabis. The company will be producing a massive 20,000 kg of cannabis per month come this spring. With such extraordinary demands, it’s no surprise that the company is looking to alleviate some of the costs associated with cannabis production. It appears that automation provides a viable, cost-effective alternative to human labor for the Canadian cannabis giant.

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Where does automated cannabis production take over?

really high robot
With robotics technology advancing in leaps and bounds over the past two decades, the effect of machine work on the cannabis industry is sure to be profound (image via Geekologie)

What areas of the growing process is automated cannabis production taking over? One facet in which machines can outdo humans is in the initial seeding of the marijuana plant. Here a claw type mechanism is utilized to place seeds into planters. This process looks remarkably similar to those prize-grabbing arcade machines that ripped you off as a kid. However, rather than stealing your loonie, this machine promises to steal thousands of Canadian jobs. Co-founder John Cervini detailed exactly what this process entails.

“This particular robot in front of us is placing cannabis cuttings into a fresh Rockwool cube to grow roots,”

When it comes to efficiency, humans simply cannot compete with our AI overlords. 6 human employees performing the task of seeding will produce a mere 15,000 saplings a week. 3 of these machines performing the exact same task are able to produce 250,000 saplings in just 5 days. To make matters worse, these machines cost just pennies in electricity to operate making them a sensible alternative to human beings.

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Automated cannabis production… net gain or net loss for society?

Cannabis farming machines ai
Could machine work be of a positive good for Canada’s newest industry? (File image via Reuters)

When questioned about the potential correlation between automation and job loss in the cannabis industry, Cervini gave the same old song and dance that the public is accustomed to hearing on the topic,

“Honestly we don’t see any actual job loss from the automation. What we’re going to see is maybe some repurposing of jobs,”

The Aphria co-founder claims that automated cannabis production has had no effect on the job security of the company’s 400 to 500 human employees. Cervini added that rather than shrinking, the cannabis company is expanding and is looking to hire more workers. While these statements are undoubtedly a cause for short-term optimism, they paint a very limited picture of the situation.

As the legal cannabis industry in Canada grows, so too will Aphria. More funds will be generated from supplying the nation’s legal, recreational cannabis market. This will result in more capital available for investment in machines. More machines will mean more automated cannabis production, which will ultimately lead to fewer human jobs.

Sure, highly trained technicians and specialists will still be required. Human will be needed to oversee these machines and provide a guiding hand to the overall production process. However, the availability of these lofty positions will not have a substantial effect on employing Canadians. These positions are meager in the volume of career opportunities they provide and require a significant amount of schooling.

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Should We Resist Our AI Overlords?

This automation process is inevitable, but there is a silver lining, albeit a thin one.

What’s worse than losing some of Canada’s cannabis jobs to automated cannabis production? I’ll tell you what… Loosing all of these jobs to overseas outsourcing.

Outsourcing is an inevitability in the Canadian cannabis industry. Already, Canadian companies have made major investments in Colombia as a potential source of cost-effective cannabis production. Uruguay, the world’s first legal cannabis economy, has experienced a similar influx of interest as Aurora cannabis recently acquired as much as 80% of the nation’s production capacity in a $290million dollar deal.

With all available options considered, the present dilemma begins to resemble a lesser of two evils scenario. Unfortunately. automated cannabis production is a reality. Machines can outperform humans in just about every conceivable way. Cannabis is no different.

Concessions and adaptations must be made, but ultimately, automated cannabis production will keep the Canadian cannabis industry Canadian.

By: Stefan Hosko
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