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Smart Cannabis: BLOCKStrain & Emerald Forge Ahead

You’re looking at a bud. Is it indica? Sativa? Perhaps a hybrid? Here’s a label. Good. But how did the dispensary verify its strain and supply-chain history?

In an industry that’s coming into the open, sellers and buyers have an unprecedented need to verify the history of seeds and plants.

  • Customers want to get the right product, thoroughly tested and safe to consume.
  • Regulators need to verify that consumer products are indeed tested. And they have the job of implementing an accountable system for overseeing the supply chain, to protect young people and thwart crime rings. Such a system would manage massive amounts of data, on everything from pesticides to portion sizes.
  • Growers need to know when their proprietary strains hit the markets, so they can collect their hard-earned licensing fees.

What if each cannabis batch were tested and linked in to a foolproof transaction record—establishing a unique identifier to follow the product all the way through the supply chain? What if the industry had a reliable, cannabis-specific IOT security and verification system?

Studies show there’s more potential wealth in ancillary markets—including security—than for weed itself. And large-scale genetic tracing and potency verification are solutions whose time has come.

Blockstrain: Tracking the Leaf

Vancouver-based Blockstrain, a company calling itself “the smart hub for cannabis,” uses blockchain, the same cryptography tech that emerged through the development of bitcoin. Its mission? Dependable traceability for cannabis strains. That means tracking intellectual property, gene-to-sale.

The blockchain’s cryptographic edge over traditional ledgers is its resistance to corruption. Blockstrain’s open-source platform will be available to consumers, growers, retailers, software developers, and regulators. It will show where plants are at any point, gene-to-sale. It will provide alerts on a given jurisdiction’s regulations, and allow parties to communicate through the chain.

A notable benefit this technology will bring to growers is its mechanism for allowing cannabis breeders to log strains in a corruption-proof verification system that can make patents unnecessary. This will free up more time for innovation. In turn, growers can devote more time to creating dynamic arrays of product offerings.

And because it’s blockchain, the platform offers contract features to protect everyone involved in a transaction.

Reverse Takeover

Blockstrain Technology Corp. recently took its supply-chain logistics platform onto the TSX Venture exchange. Shares began trading on May 23, 2018.

Scorpion Resources Inc., a capital pool company, agreed to acquire all issued and outstanding shares of Blockstrain. So you may see Blockchain described as “formerly Scorpion.”

Also, Internet of Things Inc. has made a strategic investment in Blockstrain. Internet of Things CEO Michael Frank believes now is the time for a decentralized, blockchain-run verification platform “to protect cannabis intellectual property and uphold stringent regulatory requirements.”

The mid-2018 debut date set for the platform’s release will dovetail with the legalization of adult-use pot throughout Canada. All told, Blockstrain will target its platform to 5,000-plus Canadian craft growers, and some 50,000 growers in California.

Partnership With WeedMD

This year WeedMD Inc., an Ontario-based licensed medical cannabis producer which holds a broad collection of unique and differentiated strains, announced its strategic investment in Blockstrain.

Blockstrain’s digital archive will facilitate data sharing. For example, a botanist can manage a clone’s history, and all information collected through the course of the plant’s growth—and then share it all with colleagues. This database is also meant to facilitate communication with regulatory bodies, and is expected to reduce WeedMD’s paperwork burden. The index will always be accessible through mobile devices, providing data and insights to optimize WeedMD’s operations at every stage.

Significantly, WeedMD is a licensed provider of medical cannabis in Canada, through a proprietary seniors’ care initiative. As the baby boomer generation ages, the breadth of this market is clear.

Michael Kraft, co-founder of WeedMD, will serve as a director for Blockstrain.

Emerald Metrics: Precision Ag in Cannabis

Also working in the smart cannabis space is Emerald Metrics LLC, a startup in Portland, OR that offers “precision agriculture” and recently completed a successful fundraising round on SeedInvest.

Emerald Metrics offers a decision support system that brings continuous, real-time data to growers on the health of their plants, and the presence and effects of any pesticides, molds or fungus. The idea is to empower growers to produce “faster, better, smarter cannabis.”

The growers can use the system to select optimum lighting and fertilizers. They can learn the effects of any action taken weeks before they’d be visible to the eye. The system can be scaled to handle large growing businesses throughout the North American market.

Emerald uses sensors, spectral imaging, and its own proprietary method to discover issues during the growth of plants. The grower gets insights that will suggest actions to take to raise the yield and quality of a crop, and cut waste. The technology is applicable to any point in the supply chain, and supports consumer safety.

Emerald’s main Software-as-a-Service is CannaIntelligence, with a U.S. patent pending. The company plans to expand the platform to offer smart images and pestilence detection.

Future Possibilities

Acapulco Gold, a sativa strain, may be the finest weed ever developed. In the years ahead, we can expect to see much more innovation, and who knows how far today’s evolving legal environment will take craft growers? An outstanding strain can be worth a fortune.

There is also the potential for great strides to be make in the area of medical marijuana.

These are just two of the reasons why we need to put our best tech to work to verify genetics, effects, and comparisons among cannabis products.

New companies are rising to the challenge.

Note: This article provides a brief exploration of businesses disrupting traditional agriculture and supply-chain methods in the cannabis sector. It constitutes neither legal advice nor financial planning advice. As with all capital investments, cannabis-related investments should follow careful examination of a range of expert information. Shares in companies working in a changing regulatory environment have special inherent risks as well as growth potential.

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