For most cannabis users, the answer to these questions is no. Let’s face it – as alluring as the idea of growing your own may be, the barriers are obvious. Like any hobby, it takes an investment of time to learn to grow well. Beyond that requirement, growing also requires physical space, electricity, water, nutrients, tools, and so forth. Even if you have the requisite passion and the physical space to cultivate, depending on scale growing can be an expensive proposition up front.
As the cannabis industry explodes, technology is arriving on the scene to tackle those barriers, and it’s coming from around the world.
Just as Chile itself has made progress on the cannabis front removing it from its “hard drugs” list earlier this month, a team of enterprising Chileans has created Cloudponics, an app-controlled solution to help beginners grow their own cannabis at home easily and efficiently.
“We want to unleash the power of hydroponics and indoor growing that has only been available to experts until now, with a connected solution for both home and commercial growers,” says Nicolas Ruiz, Cloudponics CTO and co-founder.
Because the concept is a natural fit in the growing cannabis world, the hardest part of bringing a product to market that allows anyone to grow without previous experience has been the initial capital investments in building out the hardware. As a cannabusiness, traditional crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have strict barriers that businesses outside the cannabis world do not. New cannabis-specific crowdfunding platforms such as Growroom seek to help businesses like Cloudponics get to market.
So the big question is: how much cannabis can you grow? Ruiz says home growers using his group’s technology can expect six to eight ounces per harvest, with an average of four harvests per year, depending on faster or slower growth rates for different strains. Over one year, that’s a ballpark of 28 ounces of harvested cannabis.
Ruiz debuted his team’s invention to investors at WeedClub’s most recent @420 pitch event last week – as well as at Chile’s Expoweed event last month in Santiago – and he hopes to bring the team’s product to market by January. The company is taking online preorders for its product, which is 2.5-by-2.5-feet and 6 feet tall. As for cost, the entire system retails at $1,990. For more experienced home growers wanting to add an automated controller to existing grow rooms, that device retails for $990, though Ruiz noted a 30 percent discount during the pre-order campaign which brings the initial consumer cost down to approximately $1,400 for the full system and $700 for the controller.
As for ongoing costs, the team predicts $200 annually for nutrients and roughly $20/month for electricity.
Cloudponics isn’t the only company seeking to get aspiring home-growers excited. Earlier this year, Mike Adams interviewed ROOT’s co-founder Brielle Pettinelli about her company’s solution to the automated home-grow: a self-contained LED light and planter smart device connected to a smartphone app that takes a cultivator step by step through the growing process. ROOT’s solution enters the market at a significantly lower price point ($299), and is aimed at home growers needing a lower yield.
Another company, Leaf, is also taking pre-orders for an anticipated summer 2016 product release. More akin to Cloudponics’ design, Leaf’s innovative 4-by-2-foot box has a lower price point ($1,499) to produce a lower but still substantial yield of 4-5 ounces per harvest, for a ballpark of 18 ounces a year. An ongoing cost of $150 per grow for nutrient cartridge and carbon filter refills will eventually become the company’s primary revenue stream as it brings the cost of the actual grow box down, according to Leaf’s CEO Yoni Ofir. Think of the Keurig coffee maker model where the primary cost to consumers is the refill, but that cost for a quality cup o’ joe is still cheaper than the cost of a retail cup of coffee.
The technology concept is essentially similar – the system monitors soil nutrient levels for you. If plants need more or less light, the system adjusts. Temperature, ventilation, pH balancing, water levels are all monitored automatically, although users may control these variables manually via phone app to generate their own grow recipe. Users can spend as little or as much time as they want tinkering with settings.
Growers can learn from other growers. Other application features cited by both Leaf and Cloudponics designed to appeal to beginner and experienced home growers alike include the ability to share recipes with other enthusiasts via social network, as well as share photos and time lapses.
Although the wide appeal seems obvious, these automated grow products will be particularly ideal for jurisdictions such as Washington, D.C., where cannabis is legal for citizens to grow and possess but where current rules do not allow for dispensary operations.
Moreover, above and beyond innovation for home cannabis growers, Ruiz says his company’s ability to automate nutrient management and climate control means there are wider applications to grow food in urban environments.
“By simplifying the operation of indoor hydroponics, which is not only more efficient and produces larger yields, but also saves 90 percent water compared to traditional soil farming, our technology allows for the important shift into urban farming to finally become a reality,” observed Ruiz.
Who’s ready to grow your own?