Cannabis is now an ecosystem driving IoT innovation. No, really!

Image credit: Canna Obscura /

Whatever you may think of cannabis (and we’re like pretty OK with it, right?), it is not only acceptable but creating its own vast ecosystem. This, in turn, is triggering innovation, start-ups and really cool stuff. The growth is being compared to the rise of cable TV and broadband in the nineties and noughties.

One one level, the whole cannabis phenomenon is taking the IoT and agritech industry (you probably never thought you would read the words ‘cannabis’ or ‘agritech’ on Disruptive.Asia) to completely new levels of innovation.

The driver is, of course, profit. It justifies investment almost immediately. Seldom before has there been a market where you know before you start that consumers will pay a premium and not mind.

This, amongst other things, is reinventing farming methods. We now have vertical farms emerging in disused city warehouses. And we now know that soil is only one way of growing crops, and pretty inefficient at that. What is far more efficient is a soup of nutrients and some clever use of light.

Plants grow because of light, and we are now learning that optimum light levels and the length of time that those light levels need to be maintained, changed, or switched off to simulate night are all critical. It might remind a seasoned old hack of Caesar’s Palace in Vegas, where dusk may fall, but night never does. The light levels are designed to keep you gambling 24 hours a day.

Seriously, the sensors involved and the efficiencies they achieve are one of the best examples of the IoT doing what the IoT should do.

Now that cannabis is legal in more and more places (and who would have said that ten years ago) it has provided the infrastructure for innovation, and brands and lifestyle companies are jumping in.

According to a report on this by JWT, ‘cannabis has proved an economic boon, with Colorado processing $1 billion in sales in just the first eight months of 2017. The industry is poised to create a quarter of a million jobs by 2020’.

That must be a good thing.

The innovation is beginning to gain traction, tagged as a chic lifestyle choice. And everyone is figuring out how to get into it – from healthcare companies, to beauty products to food.

This phenomenon will not mean that America will be high all the time (although looking at the events of the last year or so, you might wonder) but the emphasis will be on the health benefits and general lifestyle enhancements.

Of course, cannabis is a very visible, obvious and topical subject to identify, but the point is that if you create the infrastructure and you know the market, amazing things will happen.

Will the same be said of 5G, or the IoT in years to come?

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