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Software in the age of AI: charting the course of the last decade

August 17, 2023  By Hardeep Shoker

Having the right software to replace manual processes, provide easy access to critical data and run the business more efficiently, is the most effective way for cannabis companies to reduce operating costs. Photo: sodawhiskey / Adobe Stock

The cannabis industry in Canada has undergone significant changes in the past decade, and along with it, the software options have also evolved. Yet many producers still rely on outdated tools, like pen, paper and spreadsheets, and systems from the ACMPR days.  

Companies today struggle to maintain a profitable operation most often arising from a common problem: high costs.Here’s why having the right software is one way for companies to help reduce costs.

The evolution of tools and systems for producers

As industries evolve, so too do the tools that enable players to be compliant and efficient within them. 

During the ACMPR and Cannabis 1.0 era, operators were focused on the medical market and dried flower products. Within the facility, the emphasis was on compliance and software was used to support this. However, with the introduction of the recreational market and the advent of Cannabis 2.0 (the addition of products to the legal market such as vapes, edibles and extracts), more advanced software platforms have emerged. These systems continually adapt to create greater visibility and transparency within the production process, driving improvements in both quality and cost-effectiveness. 


ACMPR 2013- 2018: Seed-to-Sale software

Between 2013-2018, the evolution of software was driven by the medical industry. The software platforms developed during this time were tailored to comply with the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) and were commonly known as “Seed-to-Sale” offerings.

Seed-to-sale software assists producers in tracking various stages of the production process, including growth, harvests, drying, processing, packaging and sales and distribution. Though these tools were designed specifically for cannabis 1.0 and medical-only sales. As a result, they are unable to accommodate complicated workflows for complex SKUs leaving producers to rely on binders and spreadsheets to connect the dots between their cannabis inventory, non-cannabis inventory, current work-in-progress and QA programs. 

The Cannabis Act 2018: Enterprise Resource Planning 

Following the introduction of the Cannabis Act in October 2018, the recreational cannabis market began to find its feet. Large public companies emerged in the industry and as a result, financial reporting took precedence over compliance. This meant larger producers were pushed to enterprise resource planning software (ERPs) to plug the gaps left by traditional seed-to-sale platforms. 

ERP software is used by organizations in all industries to manage day-to-day activities, but will not provide granular insight into operations on the facility floor. 

Cannabis 2.0 2019 – Present: Manufacturing Execution Systems 

When the recreational market evolved and new product forms became available, this led to the emergence of a new type of agile software in the industry. 

MES helps producers track and document the transformation of flower or biomass into finished goods. Unlike seed-to-sale, this software captures all inventory movement, quality control work and environmental data into a central platform that can generate detailed batch reports and granular operational insights.  

MES is all about increased visibility to critical data, automation processes and  efficiency and productivity. It can also “connect the dots” between EPR and other software solutions, such as eQMS –  a software system to help LPs set up, monitor and maintain their QA program. 

What’s next? Artificial Intelligence

The integration of AI software is expected to play a revolutionary role, enhancing efficiency and productivity in the market. 

AI-powered systems can optimize cultivation by analyzing data from sensors and making real-time adjustments for plant health and resource utilization. It can also enhance quality control by detecting pests, disease and abnormalities through image analysis. Inventory management systems driven by AI can track and predict inventory levels, reducing supply chain risks. 

Cannabis companies now understand that modern day technology is vital for optimization in hopes of avoiding obsolescence in the highly competitive market. 

Hardeep Shoker is the COO and a co-founder of Elevated Signals, which develops GMP-validated manufacturing software for the cannabis industry. He brings 15 years of experience in software development and best practices from other industries, and applies them to the cannabis marketplace.

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