The Value of Digital Transformation in Cannabis Cultivation: Green Nanny and Clarify Partner Up

Shawn here. I want to tell you why I’m excited about Clarify, and why we’ve decided to make it a feature element of our overall product solution package.

I’ve been in technology for more than 25 years now. I’ve seen the transition from on-premises to cloud, from cloud to containers, and from cloud to the edge, and all of it back again. Cycles and patterns are common in the technology world, but one thing remains constant; the humans involved are just looking for better ways to solve business problems with technology. One of the ways they do that is by collaborating on information. That’s often taken the form of reports and dashboards, all of which are still excellent solutions to many problems. However, when you’re working in an industry that is time-conscious, seeing that information as bar charts and pie graphs isn’t all that helpful.

I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know about cannabis growth cycles, but to point out the obvious, they are much more aligned with a solution that takes time into account than one that just stores and displays data in columns, like a spreadsheet. However, data structures that use rows and columns are the more common way we express and analyze data. Most data solutions are based on this approach, but not Clarify. It makes time-series data a first class citizen.

Time-series data provides a more comprehensive view of operations compared to column-based data. Column-based data only provides a snapshot of a certain point in time, while time-series data offers an ongoing analysis of operations. This allows growers to better track and monitor changes in their cultivation environment over time, leading to more informed decisions about how to optimize their systems and processes. Additionally, because time-series data is collected over a period of time, it is possible to identify trends and patterns that may not be immediately visible in column-based data. This helps growers understand the direction their operations are heading, so that they can take the necessary action to ensure their facility is running at peak efficiency.

One of the problems we run into when working with customers in the field is the uniqueness of equipment that’s been purchased over the lifetime of the cultivation facility. Unless you are in the financial position to plan out your entire cultivation process from the ground up, you probably don’t have a unified cultivation platform. AROYA is a good example of such a platform. It basically covers everything. Sensor, control systems, and software. Most of our customers have built their systems over time and pieced together what they needed to succeed on tight budgets and tight deadlines. But that lack of unity that you would normally get from a system like AROYA creates its own set of headaches. You start to run into issues of system and software interoperability.

Interoperability is a major problem for many cultivators, as it can make it difficult to integrate different systems and software together. When a cultivator has built their system over time, piecing together different components, it can be difficult to ensure compatibility and successful operation. This lack of compatibility can lead to communication issues, data errors, and other operational inefficiencies, resulting in costly delays and lost profits. Additionally, without integration, cultivators may not be able to take advantage of all the features and benefits of the components, or use the data in the most efficient way. By partnering with Clarify, Green Nanny provides cultivators with a powerful tool to help them manage and analyze data from multiple sources, regardless of interoperability issues.

The lack of a unified cultivation platform makes it difficult for cultivators to ensure that all components of their system are compliant and adhere to the same standard of operation. This can lead to data errors and operational inefficiencies, as different components may be operating differently and not be able to communicate with each other. Additionally, it can be hard for cultivators to keep track of the various systems and software in use in their facility, making it difficult to ensure that all components are up-to-date and compliant.

With a unified platform, such as AROYA, cultivators can be more confident that their components will be operating according to the same standards, which can help improve compliance and ensure their facility is running efficiently. However, with a patchwork system, it is hard to guarantee that all components are compliant and that all systems are working together properly.

How do you get that experience of one platform without necessarily starting over?

That is one of the goals of Green Nanny as a system and software integrator. We want to help facilities digitize their operations. You may have heard the term Digital Transformation and wondered if that was only for manufacturers, or perhaps it’s just another buzzword. Well, it’s not just another buzzword. But it’s often misunderstood or misused.

We define digital transformation as the process of using digital technology to create new, or modify existing, business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements. It is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, resulting in fundamental changes to how businesses operate and how they deliver value to their customers. Digital transformation enables organizations to leverage data, analytics, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve existing processes and create new opportunities. By taking advantage of digital technologies, businesses can become more agile, efficient, and competitive in their respective industries.

It’s a lot. And it’s a lot more than many organizations are ready for. So we don’t approach it as a project or even a goal. To Green Nanny, digital transformation is a journey. And if you have any type of digital system as part of your facility’s operations, you’ve already begun that journey. You are part of the digital transformation movement. Where does Green Nanny fit it? We’re the difference between a chaotic, accidental transformation and a deliberate one.

A deliberate digital transformation using an iterative approach that focuses on taking the next best action looks like an ongoing process of assessing the current state of the operation, understanding the desired outcomes, and creating a roadmap for how to get there.

The roadmap should include a plan for data collection, analytics, and automation, as well as a plan for incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) into the mix. Data collection should be designed to capture information that is relevant to the desired outcomes and can be used to inform decision-making. Analytics should be used to identify patterns and trends in the data, and automation should be used to streamline operations and reduce manual labor. AI can then be used to make predictions based on the data and the analytics, allowing for more informed decisions.

The iterative approach means that the process should be ongoing, with improvements being made over time as new information is collected, and new technologies become available. It also means that the focus should be on taking the next best action, rather than trying to achieve perfection in one go. By focusing on taking the next best action, organizations are able to make continual improvements while avoiding the pitfalls of trying to “boil the ocean” and achieve too much too soon.

I really like Walker Reynolds five steps to digital transformation. They’re in alignment with the way Green Nanny approaches things.

  1. Admit you have a problem.
  2. Brainstorm a solution and make it your dream.
  3. Get help from a systems architect.
  4. Work together with the systems architect to architect your dream.
  5. Transform the way you think.

I won’t go into detail on Walker’s thoughts, you can watch the YouTube video for more insights, but I will point out that the approach is just as much about a shift in mindset as it as an implementation of technology. Like all things in business, the technology aligns to the business, and not the other way around.

Green Nanny loves Clarify as a solution for time-series data analysis and collaboration. It’s open and extensible, making it easy to work with. It brings many data points into one common workspace, and gives teams a way to communicate about specific events. We’re excited to partner with Clarify and introduce this data platform to the cannabis cultivation world. Our solutions, combined with Clarify, will bring something unique to cultivation facilities. Green Nanny is here to help you see how Clarify can make working with time-series data from your facility easy and valuable.

This won’t be our last post on Clarify. It’s a fantastic product, and we can’t wait to show you what it can do for you and your team.

New eBook and AudioBook available

Update as of 03/08/2023. I’ve removed the book from purchase. I’m working on an improved version that I’m designing specifically for a new product offering we’re creating. More news to come soon.

I’ve created a new eBook and AudioBook titled, “Green Nanny’s Guide to Indoor Controlled Environment Agriculture Cannabis IoT and Control Systems.” It’s now available for purchase.

This is the first of what I hope is many technology guides aimed at the cannabis industry. It’s not a huge book. It’s just under 50 pages and the AudioBook is just under 1.5 hours. However, it does fulfill a need.

This book was written to help technology professionals who are interested in a high-level view of how technology is applied to the cannabis cultivation process. This presentation gives a quick overview of the book with a summary of each chapter.

Book introduction

This is a no fluff overview of the IoT sensors, controls systems, and basic concepts that relate to growing cannabis in a controlled environment agriculture indoor facility – normally known as a “grow.” This guide is designed for technical specialists who may be familiar with traditional IoT and control systems, but wish to know more about the products and systems used in the cannabis industry. This is a non-opinionated reference. Each chapter of this short book covers a different topic in enough detail to give the reader the basic understanding of the concept, how the concept fits into the growth and flowering cycle of cannabis, examples of the technology, and even examples of brands and products.

This book is not a guide for growing cannabis. It is not an opinionated approach to building the architecture needed to create a successful indoor grow. This book’s goal is to quickly familiarize the reader with the technology, give the reader a basic sense of how to apply the technology, and suggest specific vendors and products that supply the technology, but I leave it to the reader to take deeper dives into opinionated approaches to building information systems for cannabis.

Chapter 1 : 3D microclimate mapping

3D microclimate mapping is a process of using modern technology to measure the environment in which cannabis plants are grown. This data is then used to create a 3D map of the environment, which can be used to analyze the temperature, humidity, light, and other variables of the space. This information can be used to identify and address any areas of the grow space that may have suboptimal conditions for plant growth, and to optimize irrigation and fertilization practices. There are several products, systems, and vendors that can help indoor cannabis gardeners to create 3D microclimate maps of their grow spaces.

Chapter 2: Canopy Management

Canopy management is an important aspect of indoor cannabis cultivation that helps to optimize the growth and yield of the plants while also improving the overall quality of the cannabis being produced. There are several technologies that can help indoor cannabis growers with canopy management, such as LED grow lights, climate control systems, nutrient delivery systems, automated watering systems, and pruning and training tools. There are also many products, systems, and vendors that can help indoor cannabis gardeners with canopy management.

Chapter 3: CO and CO2

Carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) are both important elements for indoor cannabis growers to control in order to ensure optimal plant growth and safety. Various technologies exist to help growers control CO2 levels, such as CO2 generators, tanks and regulators, CO2 sensors, and carbon dioxide enrichment systems. For managing CO buildup, technologies such as carbon monoxide detectors, ventilation systems, air purifiers, and gas-fired heating and lighting systems can be used. It is important for growers to carefully research and consider the various options before making a decision.

Chapter 4: Crop Logistic Systems

A crop logistics system is a system that manages the flow of materials, information, and other resources within an indoor cannabis facility. It can help to streamline operations, ensure quality control, reduce costs, and minimize environmental impact. To implement a crop logistics system, technologists should understand the cannabis cultivation process, regulatory requirements, data management, material handling, facility design, and project management. Popular crop logistics systems on the market include BioTrackTHC, Leaf, Flowhub, and Cultivo. The best system for a particular facility will depend on its specific needs and budget.

Chapter 5: Cultivation data tracking by room, harvest, and strain

Indoor cannabis growers often need to track cultivation data by room, harvest, and strain in order to identify issues, understand trends and patterns, and understand the unique characteristics of each strain. There are a variety of technologies and products available to help growers track this data, such as cultivation software, sensors and monitoring systems, smart devices, and manual data tracking. Popular products and vendors include Trellis, Leafly, CannaFarm, and GreenBroz.

Chapter 6: Digital grow journals and calendars

Digital grow journals and calendars are useful tools for indoor cannabis growers to track the progress of their plants and optimize the growing conditions for maximum yield and potency. There are a number of products and vendors that offer digital grow journals and calendars specifically designed for indoor cannabis growers, such as GrowBuddy, CannaCal, GrowPlanner, and GrowDiaries.

Chapter 7: DLI sensors

DLI sensors are devices used by indoor cannabis growers to measure and record the amount of light that a plant receives on a daily basis. They are used to ensure that plants receive the optimal amount of light for growth and development, optimize the use of lighting systems, identify potential issues with the grow space, and understand how different lighting conditions impact plant growth. Technologists should understand how to install, calibrate, use, and maintain DLI sensors, and there are a variety of vendors and products available on the market.

Chapter 8: Environmental sensors for temperature, relative humidity (RH), and VPD

Environmental sensors for temperature, relative humidity, and VPD are important tools for monitoring and controlling the growing environment in indoor cannabis facilities. These sensors help growers optimize plant growth and yield by providing real-time data on key environmental parameters, enabling them to make informed decisions about how to manage the growing environment. Technologists need to understand how to properly install, calibrate, and maintain these sensors, and there are a variety of vendors and products on the market to choose from.

Chapter 9: Integrated pest management systems

Integrated pest management (IPM) is a sustainable approach to pest control that combines various techniques to reduce the use of pesticides and minimize their potential negative impacts on human health and the environment. Technologists responsible for integrating an IPM program into an indoor cannabis grow facility should understand the various strategies, common pests, potential impacts, principles of pest management, regulations, and the importance of proper training and education. There are many vendors and products available on the market for indoor cannabis IPM systems, and it is important to carefully research and compare different vendors and products to find the best fit.

Chapter 10: LUX Monitoring

LUX monitoring is a tool used to measure the amount of light in an indoor cannabis grow facility and ensure that the plants are receiving the optimal amount of light for growth. It is different from DLI sensors, which measure the amount of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) that is received by the plants. Technologists need to understand how to measure LUX, the optimal LUX levels for different stages of plant growth, and the various factors that can affect LUX levels in order to effectively integrate it into an indoor cannabis grow facility.

Chapter 11: PAR Monitors

PAR monitors are important tools for indoor cannabis grow facilities, as they measure the amount of Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) present in the environment. Technologists need to understand how PAR monitors work, the importance of PAR in plant growth, the optimal range of PAR for cannabis plants, how to interpret PAR monitor readings, and how to troubleshoot and maintain PAR monitors in order to effectively integrate them into a cannabis indoor grow facility.

Chapter 12: Plant tag importing and tracking

Indoor cannabis grow facilities often need to implement plant tag importing and tracking for a variety of reasons, including compliance with regulations and laws, improving efficiency and profitability, and ensuring the safety and quality of their products. Technologists responsible for integrating the process into a cannabis indoor grow facility need to understand regulatory requirements, data management, tracking systems, integration with other systems, and security. Popular vendors and products on the market for indoor cannabis plant tag importing and tracking include BioTrackTHC, METRC, LeafData Systems, Flowhub, and MJ Freeway.

Chapter 13: Pipe and Tank sensors for EC, pH & temperature

Pipe and tank sensors for EC, pH, and temperature are important tools for indoor cannabis grow facilities, as they can help to improve the quality, efficiency, and compliance of their operations, as well as ensure the safety of their products. Technologists who are responsible for integrating these sensors will need to understand sensor technology, data management, integration with other systems, alarms and alerts, and maintenance. Popular vendors and products on the market include HANNA Instruments, SensorPush, Bluelab, Nutrient Technologies, and Yara.

Chapter 14: Strain or harvest batch recipes

Strain or harvest batch recipes provide a consistent and reliable way for indoor cannabis grow facilities to produce high-quality cannabis. Various technologies, such as seed-to-sale tracking software, automated grow systems, and data management and analysis tools, can be used to track and apply strain or harvest batch recipes in an indoor cannabis grow facility. Popular vendors and products on the market for indoor cannabis strain or harvest batch recipe technologies include BioTrackTHC, Leafly, Trellis, and GroGuru.

Chapter 15: Substrate sensors for water content (WC), EC, and temperature

Substrate sensors are used in indoor cannabis grow facilities to measure water content, electrical conductivity, and temperature in order to maintain optimal growing conditions for plants. Technologists need to understand how to properly calibrate, install, collect and analyze data from, maintain, and safely use these sensors. Popular vendors and products on the market for these sensors include Decagon Devices, Sentek Technologies, Campbell Scientific, Delta-T Devices, and METER Group.

You can purchase the book here: sorry, book is no longer available for purchase.

Establishing a Technology Vision for a Cannabis Business IT Department

This is a bit different from what I usually post on here, but I think you’ll find it useful. This isn’t about any specific technology. It’s more of a guide for IT Managers who have been tasked with setting a Technical Vision for their organization.

  1. Building a Technology Vision that’s More than Fluff
    1. What exactly is a technology vision?
    2. Aligning Business Goals to Technology Vision for Cannabis Business IT Managers
      1. Establishing Clear Objectives
      2. Understanding the Technology Needs
      3. Planning for the Future
    3. Assessing Current Systems and Infrastructure for Cannabis Business IT Managers
      1. Identifying System Components
      2. Assessing Performance
      3. Identifying Weaknesses
      4. Security Audits
      5. Penetration Testing
      6. Risk Assessments
      7. Vulnerability Scanning
      8. Security Training
    4. Implementing an Agile Release Process for Software and Integrations in a Cannabis Business
      1. Establish a Cross-Functional Team
      2. Create a Roadmap
      3. Develop a Release Strategy
      4. Automate Where Possible
      5. Monitor and Evaluate
    5. In Closing
    6. Feel Free to Download and Share this Article

Building a Technology Vision that’s More than Fluff

Creating a technology vision for a cannabis business IT department is an important part of ensuring the success of the business. To ensure the technology vision is successful, there are several key points that need to be taken into consideration.

This is often put squarely on the shoulders of the IT Manager, and by IT Manger, I mean anyone in a leadership role in the cannabis business’s IT Department. In this article I’ll discuss how this is changed from an event expected from one leader in the organization to a practice that can become a regular part of an IT team’s best practices.

I want to touch on how the needle has moved in regards to running IT departments. Businesses as a whole are moving away from the old command-and-control way of thinking. In the cannabis industry, we still have some of that command in place in the form of compliance to state and local laws related to cannabis. However, cannabis production sits squarely in the domain of agriculture and manufacturing. In the manufacturing domain systems intelligence is regularly moving closer to the machine and the machine operators. This human in the loop approach means that far more of the important decisions are left in the hands of the people who work with the machines daily.

This is not unlike the growing of cannabis. Though the cannabis business should establish Standard Operating Procedures for your grow rooms, the processes that make up those procedures should be coming from those who are most hands-on with the plants. As an IT Manager, you will often find yourself in the difficult position of fulfilling the expectations of cannabis business owners and leaders, local laws and requirements, as well as the needs of your IT teams, which are typically made up of intelligent, and opinionated individuals.

My goal for this quick guide is to give you a few pointers toward processes and tools that should make your life as an IT Manager easier. Much of this about taking some of the old standards of IT Management and addressing them with the newer, and I do think better, ways of working.

What exactly is a technology vision?

A technology vision is a set of goals for the IT department to strive for. It should include both short-term and long-term objectives, as well as a plan to implement those objectives. It should also include strategies for achieving those objectives, such as the use of cutting-edge technologies, automation, and data-driven decision making. Additionally, a technology vision should also include a plan for monitoring progress and making improvements as needed.

In my opinion this shouldn’t be a huge plan followed step-by-step, but should be the foundational document that sets the vision for how an IT department works to achieve the business objectives using technology. This document should basically establish the way you work. There are a number of areas that I believe you should cover, and I will go into those in this document.

Aligning Business Goals to Technology Vision for Cannabis Business IT Managers

Creating a successful technology vision for a cannabis business IT department begins with understanding and aligning the business goals with the technology vision. It is important for IT Managers to consider the short and long-term goals of the cannabis business and how technology can be used to achieve those goals.

To help IT Managers align business goals to their technology vision, here are some key points to consider:

Establishing Clear Objectives

In order to ensure successful alignment of business goals and technology vision, it is important to establish clear objectives. This means identifying the specific goals and objectives of the cannabis business and how technology can support those goals.

It’s not always clear how that can be done. How do you align business goals or desired business outcomes to the actual technology?

I like to use the Opportunity Solution Tree collaborative tool introduced by Teresa Torres to help with this process. This is a product development tool designed to help teams discover opportunities related to a desired business outcome. Once you understand the opportunities in great enough detail, you can then focus on solutions for those opportunities. Using this tool regularly with your IT team makes it easier to tie the solutions to tactical architecture decisions.

Understanding the Technology Needs

Once the objectives are established, IT Managers need to understand the technology needs of the cannabis business. This includes understanding the current technology infrastructure, the necessary hardware and software, and the potential for new technology.

This is one of the areas where you have to take into account the special context of cannabis as a highly-regulated market in states where it’s legal.

When creating a technology vision for a cannabis business IT department, there are several primary technology areas that need to be taken into account. These include:

  • Security: Cannabis businesses must adhere to strict security protocols and adhere to state legal requirements, and to protect customer data and secure the business.
  • Compliance: Cannabis businesses must comply with local, state, and federal laws, as well as any applicable industry regulations.
  • Cloud Computing: Cloud computing offers the cannabis business the ability to scale quickly, reduce costs, and access the latest technology.
  • Business Intelligence: Business intelligence tools can help analyze data and generate actionable insights to help inform decision-making.
  • Automation: Automation can help increase efficiency and reduce costs. Automation solutions can range from simple scripts to complex solutions that automate entire processes like automating cultivation systems and inventory management.
  • Mobile Applications: Mobile applications can help cannabis businesses connect with customers, extend reach, and increase engagement.
  • Reliable point-of-sale systems that work with compliance systems like METRC.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): IoT devices can help cannabis businesses monitor operations, improve customer experience, and increase efficiency.

By understanding the technology needs of the cannabis business, IT Managers can create a technology vision that supports the business goals and objectives.

Planning for the Future

Finally, IT Managers need to plan for the future. This means anticipating changes in the cannabis business and its technology needs, as well as staying up-to-date on the latest technology trends and best practices. This will help IT Managers ensure that the technology vision is in line with the business goals and will allow them to create a roadmap for future growth.

This means tracking news related to the cannabis industry and paying close attention to local and state laws related to cannabis. These can change quickly with each voting cycle.

I want to recommend Wardley Maps here again as a tool to help evaluate new tools and systems. WM gives you a way to look at your customer value chain and determine if adding something to this chain will increase your value proposition in the market. As technology professionals, we’re often capture by the siren’s song of new, shiny objects. Block Chain might seem like a good technology, but do you really have use for it in your cannabis cultivation department? Maybe, there might be some use of it there, but I wouldn’t consider it until I had a chance to sit down with the team and do a few mapping exercises to see where we are and where the new tech could take us.

Assessing Current Systems and Infrastructure for Cannabis Business IT Managers

Cannabis business IT Managers need to assess the current systems and infrastructure in order to create a successful technology vision. This includes understanding the existing hardware and software, and the potential for new technology.

To assess the current systems and infrastructure, IT Managers should take the following steps:

Identifying System Components

IT Managers should begin by identifying the components of the current system and infrastructure. This includes understanding the hardware, software, and other components that are being used in the system.

This is a big undertaking. It’s not something I would want to take on all at once. If you don’t have some type of documentation built around your existing systems, I suggest you start with something small and high-level. I’m a fan of diagrams. And you don’t necessarily need fancy icons that represent specific brands or products. Those might be helpful, but when you’re first discussing what your existing tactical architecture looks like, squares and lines with arrows are a reasonable place to start.

I think this needs to be a collaborative exercise where you include the whole team. This gives someone who may never work in the cultivation part of your business an opportunity to understand what systems and applications are used there.

I would also suggest you avoid discussing any major changes, even though as you go through this exercise you’ll likely find a few things you think need improving. The goal of this process is to inventory what you have, not to try to plan for big updates.

Assessing Performance

Once the components are identified, IT Managers should assess the performance of the system. This includes understanding the performance of the system in terms of speed, reliability, and security.

I think there’s an incremental way to accomplish this. And if I needed to build a strategy for taking on this task, there are two tools I would use.

I would use Wardley Mapping to pinpoint what technology in our customer value chain closely aligns with the customer. Basically, the closer a component is to the customer, the higher priority I would give it. Not that we would ignore the less visible components, because we would definitely want to address those items, as well. But Wardley Maps would help me to pinpoint where to set my backlog work priorities.

The second tool I would use is AWS’s Well Architected approach to systems.

The AWS Well-Architected Framework is a set of best practices designed to help organizations build resilient, secure, and cost-efficient systems on the AWS Cloud. It is a comprehensive approach to cloud architecture that addresses the five pillars of cloud architecture: operational excellence, security, reliability, performance efficiency, and cost optimization.

The framework provides guidance and best practices to help organizations understand the most important architectural considerations and design decisions when using the AWS Cloud. This includes identifying and mitigating potential risks, building secure systems, and ensuring cost-effectiveness.

The framework is based on a set of questions and evaluation criteria that can be used to assess the architecture of a system. The framework also provides a set of tools and resources to help organizations build, manage, and measure their architectures against the five pillars.

The AWS Well-Architected Framework is an excellent tool for organizations looking to build secure, resilient, and cost-efficient systems on the AWS Cloud. By understanding and following the framework’s best practices, organizations can ensure that their systems are optimized for the cloud, and that they can take advantage of the full range of AWS services to maximize their investment.

Even though this was designed by AWS engineers for AWS, it doesn’t mean that it can’t also be applied as a lens to your existing tactical architecture. Even when considering vendor Software as a Service applications, it’s worth asking questions about operational excellence, security, reliability, performance efficiency, and cost optimization.

Identifying Weaknesses

IT Managers should also identify any weaknesses in the system and infrastructure. This includes assessing any potential risks or vulnerabilities that could pose a security concern.

Uncovering weaknesses in cannabis business IT systems and infrastructure is an important part of ensuring the success of the business. To identify potential risks and vulnerabilities, IT Managers should use the following tools and processes.

Security Audits

One of the biggest areas of weakness is in system security. A security audit is a thorough review of the technology used by a business. This includes assessing the hardware, software, and other components of the system, as well as understanding and evaluating the existing security protocols. A security audit can help identify potential weaknesses in the system and provide recommendations for improvements.

One tool the team can use to audit the overall system is to perform an EventStorming session with a focus on security and vulnerabilities. EventStroming can give you a more complete vision of the overall system and how the component part’s communicate and interact.

I don’t like the old way of having a yearly or quarterly big event security audit. I think they’re a waste of time and effort. Usually, some outside firm comes in, does a complete scan of your system using a set of proprietary tools and leaves you with a huge report. You get a big bill and a big report that doesn’t necessarily help you take actionable steps. I’m not saying that partnering with a security firm isn’t a good idea. It can be, as long as the security is a continuous process.

Think about it this way, you’re system is constantly undergoing changes. With each new release of software the security profile of your systems have changed. Do you think doing a yearly evaluation of your system is really going to protect you? It will up until the time you or one of your integrated systems pushes a change out to production. So skip the big yearly audit or assessment and make this a regular part of your team’s way of working.

Penetration Testing

Penetration testing is a process of testing the security of a system by attempting to gain access to the system without authorization. This involves simulating an attack on the system and analyzing the results. Penetration testing can help uncover potential vulnerabilities and assess the effectiveness of security protocols.

Think about making PT a regular part of your software development life cycle (SDLC). If this is only done a few times a year or even a month, you could miss an important issue and leave yourself vulnerable.

Risk Assessments

Risk assessments are a process of identifying, assessing, and managing potential risks. This includes understanding potential threats and evaluating the security of the system. Risk assessments can help IT Managers identify potential weaknesses in the system and develop strategies for mitigating those risks.

This is another big picture item that you could cover with EventStorming and Wardley Maps. Use EventStorming to map out your existing architecture, and then use Wardley Maps to determine the risks of adding this new system or product to your customer value chain.

I think this is so important to the cannabis business, because there is so much at risk. Not only is the business in regular risk of compliance issues, but there are people’s health at risk. Something as simple as a contaminated gummie could critically injure someone. Risk assessment exercises should be a regular part of your processes.

Vulnerability Scanning

Vulnerability scanning is a process of scanning a system for potential vulnerabilities. This involves scanning for known vulnerabilities as well as identifying new ones. Vulnerability scanning can help identify potential weaknesses in the system and provide information about how to remediate those weaknesses.

One of the best new ways of managing this is with a Software Bill of Materials. Java has included a POM for many years, and other software languages have unique ways of keeping up with their library dependencies. Lately, some of the worst attacks have come from contaminated libraries that developers have unknowingly used to help bad guys either access your systems or corrupt your data. Consider adopting an SBOM process for your team.

Security Training

Security training is an important part of any IT system. This includes educating employees on security protocols and best practices. Security training can help employees understand the importance of security and how to protect the system from potential threats.

By using these tools and processes, IT Managers can uncover potential weaknesses in the system and develop strategies for mitigating those risks. This can help ensure the success of the cannabis business’s IT systems and infrastructure.

This is definitely one of the areas where it pays to hire either a managed service to help focus on your security or hire your own security professional. Every IT department should have at least one person whose entire job is to focus on security – this should also include operational technology and hardware. Cannabis businesses are a big target for theft. Because many operate on cash, putting strict processes and procedures around the handling of cash and the technology associated with handling cash should be a high priority.

Implementing an Agile Release Process for Software and Integrations in a Cannabis Business

Once you have a grasp of your existing systems, and a vision for how you can manage change within your environment, it’s time to establish a disciplined, but flexible approach to managing changes to production systems.

An Agile Release Process is a process for releasing software and other integrations in an iterative, incremental manner. It is a popular approach to software development, and it is well-suited to the cannabis business, which often has complex and rapidly changing requirements. An Agile Release Process can help cannabis businesses manage the complexity of their software development, and ensure that their software and integrations are released quickly, efficiently, and reliably.

To put an Agile Release Process into practice, cannabis business IT managers should take the following steps:

Establish a Cross-Functional Team

The first step in implementing an Agile Release Process is to establish a cross-functional team. This team should include members from multiple departments, including IT, operations, and customer service. This team should be responsible for managing the development and release of software and other integrations.

There are a couple of different tools that can help establish what type of teams you need to create. These are reflected in the systems they manage. I recommend every IT Manager read about Team Topologies. In my opinion it’s one of the best books on forming teams that fit into the right type of value chain. Another option is to look at Domain-Driven Design’s approach to building services from a context map. Team building is a big area worth the investment of time to build out.

Here is just a brief description of Team Topologies and Context Maps:

Team Topologies is a methodology developed by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais that helps organizations to build effective teams. It is based on the concept of a value chain, which is a way of thinking about the various stages of a process or system. The goal of Team Topologies is to build teams that are optimized for a particular value chain. Each team should be composed of members that have the right skills and experience to effectively manage a specific stage of the value chain. This ensures that teams are able to quickly respond to changes and deliver results efficiently.

Domain-Driven Design’s Context Map is a visual diagram used to represent the various elements of an application or system and their interrelationships. It is used to help teams identify dependencies between components, map out the entire system, and better understand the domain. The Context Map consists of three main components: bounded contexts, bounded contexts relationships, and upstream/downstream relationships. Bounded contexts are sections of the system that are identified based on their purpose and the data that they use. Bounded context relationships are lines connecting different bounded contexts, which represent the interactions between them. Upstream/downstream relationships are arrows that represent the flow of data and control between different bounded contexts.

One thing to keep in mind for the DDD Context Map; even though it states that it represents systems and software, those patterns can also represent teams. If you follow Conway’s Law and recognize that software systems tend to reflect the communication structure of the organization, you’ll realize that you can make your software systems more successful by changing the shape of the organization. Just as an aside, this is why in all of my planning and analysis work I will regularly touch on the importance of Strategic Architecture over Tactical Architecture. Tactical is easy and right when you establish the correct Strategic approach.

Create a Roadmap

The next step is to create a roadmap for the development and release of software and other integrations. This roadmap should include a timeline of when the software and integrations will be released, as well as a plan for how they will be tested and deployed. This roadmap should be updated regularly to reflect changes in the requirements and priorities of the business.

If you document everything we’ve accomplished so far, you now have a roadmap.

Now let me give you my opinion on roadmaps. Like like maps, they are wrong. But they can be helpful. And I believe they are more helpful when the items on the roadmap are focused on establishing a Capability and not some concrete event.

For instance, I’ve seen many roadmaps that look like the following:

  • Q1 – Build a data warehouse using Oracle cloud and then rebuild our standard reports that are Excel into Tableau Reports for the accounting team
  • Q2 – Purchase an ERP solution and integrate it into the rest of our systems
  • Q3, Q4 – Build a coupon and rewards system for our POS system in our dispensaries

You’ve probably seen these types of roadmaps. And admit, because I will too, we’ve all built these type of roadmaps. I am totally guilty of this myself. But that’s an old way of thinking. The new and better approach is to think of your roadmap as a series of capabilities you and your team want to develop. Our newly revised roadmap might look like the following:

  • Q1
    • Achieve the ability to move our disparate data sources to a unified cloud data system in order to meet the business outcome of making our data more accessible to different departments within the organization
    • Achieve the ability to create reports from cloud data that are secured, but still accessible to our various teams – we will start with the accounting team and incrementally convert their old Excel reports to cloud-based reports
  • Q2
    • Understand our organization’s needs related to enterprise resource planning with a organization-wide EventStorming workshop
    • Organize an evaluation team to match our findings from the EventStorming workshop to ERP offerings
    • Achieve the ability to plan, release, and administer an ERP
  • Etc..

In my opinion, the second roadmap is much better. We aren’t focused on the technology or even just the release of the new technology, we’re focused on the abilities and capabilities around the business need. Now that does tie to a technology, but the tech isn’t the first thing we think of. The first thing we think of is meeting the strategic goal and then forming teams, systems, and processes around making that goal a success. This puts into context the idea that we want to push tactical decisions down to the last necessary second. Notice that on my roadmap I didn’t mention product names. I think Oracle is a great product, but by the time we get to actually building a data warehouse, my team might come back and tell me that based on what we’re doing, Oracle is overkill. We would actually be fine using PostgreSQL or MariaDB running as a platform as a service on Azure or AWS. Again, the selection of technology shouldn’t be something we need to call out on our roadmap.

Capability is king here. My team and my department have the skills to build, maintain, and to efficiently and effectively run workloads on a cloud data warehouse is far more impressive than mentioning a piece of technology on your roadmap.

Develop a Release Strategy

Once the roadmap is in place, the cross-functional team should develop a release strategy. This strategy should include a detailed plan for how the software and integrations will be tested and released. This should include a plan for how user feedback will be gathered and incorporated into the release process, as well as how to ensure that the software is secure and reliable.

This is one area where I feel like everyone has reached some level of maturity. Almost everyone has some type of continuous deployment and continuous release process in place. Because cannabis businesses are so highly regulated, many people fear regular releases and they tend to think you need to have a whole gated process with a change management board and a long process before anything goes into production.

That is not the case. What you need are systems and processes in place within your release pipeline that meet the criteria of the compliance requirements. Laws are different for each state or region, so I won’t touch on any one of them here, but I will state that you can put rules and policy into code. And coded policy in my opinion is far more reliable than a group of meeting in a conference room to go through a checklist of systems getting released.

Automate Where Possible

Another important part of implementing an Agile Release Process is to automate where possible. Automation can help reduce the amount of time and effort needed to release the software, as well as reduce the risk of errors. Automation should be used wherever possible, including in the testing and deployment of the software.

I think it’s important to remember that your automation code is just as important as your infrastructure and software code. It should be approached as a team capability. And the team should be involved in selecting the tools and products to make it happen.

Monitor and Evaluate

Finally, the cross-functional team should monitor and evaluate the process on an ongoing basis. This should include tracking the progress of the software and integrations, as well as evaluating the effectiveness of the process. This will help ensure that the process is continually improving, and that the software and integrations are being released in a timely and reliable manner.

By following these steps, cannabis business IT managers can put an Agile Release Process into practice, and ensure that their software and integrations are released quickly, efficiently, and reliably.

And this circles us back to building our technical vision based on desired business outcomes. If you establish desired business outcomes, how do you know you’re meeting those outcomes? How do you know you’re on the right track?

Reporting and feedback loops. You have to make space for regular systems analysis. Where are you today vs. yesterday vs. where you want to be in the future? To do this, you must have the right systems in place. If you’re on the cloud or on-premises you will likely want a tool like Prometheus or DataDog. Most cloud solutions have great built in monitoring. Azure Metrics and logging are great and have a user friendly query language to help administrators build great dashboards. Grafana is a great tool for visualizing time-series data from these systems. These are great tactical solutions, but again I want to emphasize that you’ll need to know your desired business outcomes, how to measure if these outcomes are being met, and information radiators that can focus on these metrics.

In Closing

This document covered the basics for creating a Technical Vision for your cannabis business. I hope that you now see that the Technical Vision can be far more than fluff, but an actual tool for establishing, with the input and the help of your IT team. I also see this as a living document. You should check it into a code repository somewhere. Treat it like any other piece of software. Because with time you’ll think of it as the North Star of your department’s Operating System. It should be reviewed and updated often. It should be something you feel good about handing out to leaders, partners, and especially new employees.

I hope this has been helpful. If you would like further help, please don’t hesitate to put some time on my calendar. I would love to help you and your team build a true Technical Vision.

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Can We Improve Seed-to-sale Experience for Oklahoma Growers?

Most state medical marijuana authorities require cannabis growers to use some type of seed-to-sale tracking. To meet state regulatory compliance, growers must work within the limitations of these systems to remain legal. The Oklahoma Medial Marijuana Authority (OMMA) has required its state license holders to use the seed-to-sale platform METRC. Most people use the default user interface to enter their data into METRC. In this article, I would like to introduce you to an alternative approach that will help you reduce data entry and automate many of your compliance tasks.


Yes, I firmly believe we can make this a better experience. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with METRC’s existing user interface, but most growers are using their own software. That might be an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) platform or one of the many SaaS (Software as a Service) products available on the market. If you use one set of tools to run your growing operations, and then need to log into another set of tools to enter much of the same information, you miss out on the efficiency that integrating with an API provides you.

But API Integration isn’t Easy!

True, there are technical hurdles to integration with an API. Unless you have someone on staff with the technical knowledge to implement the integration, you will likely find yourself stumbling through technical documentation and complex code needed to make an integration work. Additionally, it’s helpful to use someone with experience in implementing integrations because they will understand the best methods of connecting your existing systems to METRC.

What is METRC and how do I connect to it?

I do want to cover what METRC is. It’s a regulatory tool. It’s designed to monitor and track compliance for public safety. It’s not meant to be a materials resource planning or an enterprise resource planning platform.

How does METRC work? METRC’s architecture is composed of a web interface, an API that connects to web services, and a database. This is a common architecture for web applications. METRC provides private servers to host the applications and data, provides secure on-line access to the METRC application, and they manage all of the backups and support necessary to make the application available.

METRC is basically broken down into two halves. There is an industry half. This is where the grower completes the majority of their work. Then there is the regulatory half. This is where regulation is managed.

Regulation Side

  • Data Collecting
  • Data Analysis
  • Enforcement
  • Auditing
  • Inspecting
  • Licensing

Grower Side

  • Cultivation activities
  • Testing
  • Selling
  • Logistical Transfers

If you aren’t familiar with METRC and how it works, METRC does provide training. Training is typically required before you’re issued a license with most states that use METRC.

Once you’ve set up your profile in METRC, you can build out your organizations profile. That’s added as a facility. There are permissions for different types of facilities. Many license holders in Oklahoma will have a license for the three common facility types; cultivation, processing, and selling. METRC provides permissions for grower, processor, dispensary, labs, and transportation. You can use a single login per license, so don’t feel that you need to add each license in its own instance.

The regulatory authorities will set what items are allowed to sell. These are broken down into categories. For instance, Oklahoma allows the following categories:

  • Buds
  • Concentrate
  • Edible
  • Immature Plant
  • Infused Non-edible
  • Pre-rolls
  • Seeds
  • Shake/Trim
  • Shake Trim by Strain
  • Vegetable Plants

And though METRC claims that they aren’t meant to be the only piece of software you use, many growers make it their primary system because they don’t want to enter data into two different applications. Data entry slows down efficiency. Connecting to METRC’s API, should help reduce this double data entry burden.

So how does a license holder who uses METRC connect? And what should be done with the connection?

If you want to connect to METRC’s API, there are a few steps you’ll need to go through. First, you’ll want to visit their ‘getting started’ page.

METRC Web API Documentation

One of the first things you’ll notice when you get to the help page is that METRC uses REST for its API. If you aren’t familiar with REST, don’t worry, it’s fairly simple to grasp. REST is actually how the internet works. When you open your browser and navigate to some of your favorite websites, your browser uses REST to make requests and to send responses to servers that host the website content you choose to consume.

Now there are other types of APIs, but I won’t go into those in this articles. What’s important to know is that REST is made up of Nouns and Verbs, and the Verbs are actually pretty simple. The Nouns are resources that you’ll want to use to either query (GET) or update (POST or PUT).

So if you wanted a list of facilities, you would perform a GET request against a web address (URL) called /facilities. This would give you a list of facilities, and within that list you could find a single facility with an identifier.

If you wanted to get more detailed data related to that specific facility, you would normally perform another GET request against a web address called /facilities/{id} where you would replace the id variable with an actual identity from the list.

If all of this sounds a bit overwhelming and beyond something you want to tackle yourself, you’re in luck, because there are multiple ways to still take advantage of the API without taking on programming tasks.

Vendors That Connects to METRC

One of the easiest ways to take advantage of the METRC API is to use a software solution that already provides integration with METRC. This isn’t a complete list, but it will give you a good place to begin your search for a solution that fits your needs.


Canix is a company that offers a set of software and hardware solutions across the three primary verticals of cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution. I believe they have enough products to cover every need of the cannabis business that needs to connect to METRC. METRC isn’t their only integration. They also connect to the following services:

Additionally, they make Leaftrade reporting available and an integration with Biotrack is in development.

Canix provides lots of support for the Oklahoma market. Sophie Humphrey provides multiple articles to help you on your Canix to METRC integration journey. The best place to start reading about this process is in the following posts in the Canix Help Center:

Canix has done a great job of providing a clear path for integration. Other than their website, they also provide help on YouTube.


FloEnvy is a company bringing a Software as a Service product to market that offers solutions around forecasting, cultivation, compliance, manufacturing, sales, and labor. METRC integration is built in and available at their lowest pricing tier. There aren’t many details related to the integration process, but FloEnvy seems to be open to scheduling conversations. Their METRC page is here. And like Canix, they also offer integrations with QuickBooks and LeafLink.


IndicaOnline is an Enterprise Resource Planning platform that provides numerous Cannabis Related Business services. They provide services to help boost sales, manage your inventory, hardware for RFID scanning, order management, and of course compliance.

IndicaOnline supports integration with METRC with full synchronization of packages, test submissions, vendor and license holder management, as well as tags. This functionality is managed through their Distro App.

Similar to FloEnvy, IndicaOnline provides a way to book a demo.


Dutchie is an all-in-one technology platform. They provide Point of Sale, Ecommerce, Payments, Insurance, and what we’re most interested in here, Integrations.

Much like Canix, Dutchie is connected with multiple partner platforms, making it easier to remain compliant with systems like METRC. They boast a connection to over 60 different partners and provide dedicated customer support teams to help.

365 Cannabis

Based on Microsoft’s popular ERP Dynamics 365, The NAV People have built a complete cannabis business platform. The present their services as modules for Financials, Cultivation, Processing, CRM, Distribution, and Retail. Besides the modules, 365 Cannabis also offers services around Compliance, Analytics and Reporting, Software Training, and Integrations.

365 Cannabis does offer METRC integration, along with a number of other compliance services. They also provide a METRC guide for their customers, and guide specifically for the Oklahoma market.


Flowhub is a retail management platform that integrates with many partners. They provide a large number of products from POS System, Payments, Dispensary Compliance, Checkin ID Scanner, Dispensary Management, Inventory Management, Order Management, and Dispensary Analytics.

Flowhub’s METRC integration information can be found here.

Integration Partners

Most of the platforms I mentioned above have more than one integration partner. This makes it easy to select a primary platform and connection your desired solutions to that platform. This is a great solution if you plan to make one piece of technology your primary system to work from. For instance, platforms like 365 Cannabis and Canix are designed to manage almost every aspect of your cannabis business.

However, what if you don’t want your systems so tightly coupled? What if you want to build your enterprise solution and connect it with a custom data store and integrate it with custom applications?

This is when you need an integration specialist. Now there are different types of integrators. It’s important to know the difference. Systems Integrators typically bring together hardware and software to create a solution. You’ll often find System Integrators in the Point-of-Sales and Internet of Things domain. These specialists can often do software integration, as well. There are also Software Integrators who specialize in combining multiple software platforms into a single platform.

If you have a custom solution and you want to integrate with METRC, unless you have the staff inhouse who can work with integrating with APIs, you’ll want to find a good software systems integrator to help you connect your data and software systems to METRC.

How do Integrations Improve the Seed-to-Sales Experience for Oklahoma Growers?

We’ve discussed some of the reasons you’ll want to integrate METRC with your existing information systems. One of the primary reasons is to stop duplicate data entry, but what are some of the other areas where integration can make the grower or retailer’s life easier?

METRC status within your POS

Many systems will integrate your point-of-sale with METRC’s reported statuses. Things like order status and product transfers can show up as success, failed, or pending making it easier to get a view of your current sales and deliveries.

METRC Weight and Scanning

Integrating METRC in with RFID tagging and scales can save time entering data related to cultivation, processing, and sales.

Transporter Management and Route Planning

Working directly with third party delivery services who integrate with METRC will allow for easier selection of vehicle, driver, and route information for transport orders.

In Closing

If you aren’t familiar with the benefits of integration, this article should give you an idea of the many ways it could help save you time and improve your workflow with METRC. This is an industry with many software solutions, and as you can see, many of them are working hard to make integrating with compliance platforms like METRC easier. Just to recap, here are some of the primary advantages of using METRC’s API capabilities to integrate with the platform of your choice:

  • Reduce duplicate data entry
  • Track METRC status from your primary platform of choice
  • Simplify cultivation, processing, transportation, and retail sales workflows
  • Remain compliant with state authorities

Big Data Analytics for the Cannabis Business

What is Analytics?

Before the cloud and big data era, storage and processing of data was difficult and expensive. You needed costly hardware with massive compute power coupled with hard drives that could hold and process large blocks of data.

Today, that processing has moved to the cloud with tools designed to meet the needs of data hungry organizations. We’re moving from the time when we asked what happened in the past, to using machine learning and real-time today to asking what is happening right now.

And with predictive analytics, we can even get a glimpse of possible futures, helping us make better decisions and aligning our goals to the predicted events.

If this sounds like science fiction, it’s not. Analytics uses data and match to address complex business questions, uncover important relationships, and present meaningful patterns in the data.

Analytics as a Strategic Asset for Cannabis Businesses

If you aren’t in the position where you’re treating your analytics as a strategic asset, you aren’t alone. Many organizations are playing catch up from the old way of approaching Data Warehousing to the new was of building out Analytics Platforms.

Cannabis Businesses win with Analytics

One of the most difficult things to do in any marketplace is to stand out from the competition. This will be far more common a problem when federal legalization hits the United States. Growers will migrate to southwestern states like Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas where cultivators can take advantage of weather conditions ideal for growing mid-grade strains in abundance outdoors, flooding the market with cheaper products.

If you want to differentiate your brand, you’ll want to use data.

Using Trend Analysis for Cannabis

Trend analysis is the processes of gathering data from multiple periods and plotting that collected information with the goal of discovering insights and actionable patterns.

Marketing trend analysis can include the following data points:

  • Trends in consumer needs and behavior
  • Shifts in consumer perception of value
  • Trend in industry and cost drivers
  • Change and evolution of the industry

You might be thinking, am I supposed to collect this data myself? Where would I even find this information? How do I take the data I do collect, like demand of certain strains, inventory movement, and my accounting data to do marketing trend analysis? And what do I do with this information if I have it?

You can learn from larger brands and existing market segments outside of Cannabis. Consider the crowded soft drink and energy drink market. Coca-Cola and Pepsi offer similar products to the same markets, however they find ways to differentiate themselves by branding, advertising, and adjacent product alignment.

For example, data analytics could help a cannabis company determine that pre-rolls and a certain flavor of gummies are more popular in their area. This gives the company the opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition with branding, shelf placement, and marketing materials.

Combining consumer research with your point-of-sale data can better help the cannabis business operator make better shelf stocking choices.

Where to Find Cannabis Marketing Analysis Data

Data is a large topic. You can perform analytics at many levels of the cannabis supply chain. Cultivators can use analytics to review past growing trends, yields based on strains, the effects of different lighting, nutrition, and water on harvests. Processors can add IoT instrumentation to their machinery to predict maintenance cycles, track processing life-cycles, and track materials as it moves from raw input to the final packaged product. Retailers can use the data to make decisions about supply and demand, brand popularity, and track inventory.

There are many cannabis businesses here to help meet the specific needs of cannabis businesses, many with a specialization,

Much of the data you need to help supplement your existing data are available from third party cannabis data companies.

Who are the Big Data Cannabis Companies?

There are multiple types of data providers. For the scenario discussed above, we want a partner who can integrate securely with our existing point-of-sales data. One of the top providers in this space is Headset .

A successful cannabis retail operation has a number of moving parts – from attracting new customers, building loyalty, optimizing your product assortment, to managing a sales staff. Headset’s retail solutions help leading dispensaries from the moment they get their license all the way through to becoming efficient, well-established businesses.

Headset integrates with over 20 different point-of-sale systems and provides guidance on how to property stock your shelves with the categories your store should keep stocked.

Headset does provide the analytics solutions a dispensary and cannabis retail operation need to take advantage of trends and strategic planning.

But of course, data isn’t just for retail. There are other data providers in the marketplace with a focus on different areas:

Finding a Cannabis Data & AI Partner

Data analytics can be a great addition to your existing IT solutions, but it’s difficult to know where to start. Vendors will often help you put their products in place and get the greatest return for your investment.

However, what do you do when you don’t know where to start? This where a good consultant or consultant agency can help. There are a few out there, but one that has stood out to me, because of their dedication to Cannabis Data & AI is

The team offers integration services, data analysis, and process automation. Typically, a good consultant can help you make the right decision on what platform to build your analytics practice on, provide technical and strategic guidance, as well is implement the technical aspects of the solution.

Akerna is Poised to Win the Regulatory Compliance Game

Meeting regulatory compliance in Cannabis is a difficult job. This shouldn’t be the case. In more mature industries, meeting compliance is generally a commodity operation, easily outsourced or managed internally by trained and certified professionals. However, with U.S. federal legalization possibly years away, how does the CTO of a cannabis related business prepare? Does your executive roadmap include a task to prepare for U.S. legalization? Do you keep pushing that task down as the daily grind of keeping your operations running adds more immediate tasks to that list?

Maybe you need a partner. Maybe that partner is a company like Akerna.

If you study the cannabis technology landscape, there’s one big beast of a company you can’t help but miss. That beast is Akerna Corp (KERN). Akerna was built from the ground up to take on the challenges of meeting cannabis legal compliance. Founded by Ashesh Shah and Jessica Billingsley, the company has an impressive array of businesses under its umbrella to help make meeting regulatory compliance feel more like a commodity operation and less like a solution you need to patch together yourself.

As a CTO, what does Akerna really offer?

Akerna consolidates cannabis technology companies that connect to the global cannabis supply chain. They’ve built a transparent and accountable packaged good supply chain for consumers on a global scale.

This means that partnering with Akerna puts you in the strategic position to meet the needs of future banking, taxation, and federal compliance standards, as well as the standards at a state and local level, and internationally.

Does this mean I need to be a big operation to take advantage of Akerna’s offerings?

Akerna’s stable of product offerings is impressive. One of their most recent purchases is 365 Cannabis, a cannabis ERP (enterprise resource planning) platform that manages to bring traditional supply chain capabilities with built-in support for cannabis specific operations. It’s also built on top of Microsoft Dynamics, giving it the added benefit of being a product many people in the enterprise space are familiar with. As a CTO, considerations of your team is always important. Will the product work well with my organization’s culture, their capabilities, and will it integrate with existing systems?

It looks like Akerna answers these questions by offering a wide array of various products. From their website, here’s a breakdown of what those offerings look like:

MJ Freeway

From the MJ Freeway Product Page

With enterprise-grade operational software, technology-automated compliance safeguards for track–and–trace throughout the entire supply chain, and access to a highly experienced consulting and support team at MJ Freeway, cannabis operators have the tools to maximize their return on investment (ROI) today and plan for growth tomorrow.

MJ Freeway invented seed–to–sale software in 2010. For more than a decade, they have continued to innovate and develop software solutions specifically designed for the cannabis industry. At the center of their service offering is MJ Platform, the industry’s first cannabis-specific ERP solution. With world-class accounting integrations and a robust API partner ecosystem, MJ Platform enables cannabis businesses to manage, scale, and optimize more competitive operations across the entire legal cannabis supply chain.

Fully integrated into MJ Platform is MJ Analytics, a powerful business intelligence tool developed in partnership with Domo and Snowflake. Using visual dashboards to access and present real-time data, analytics, and business intelligence relating, operators can make more informed decisions about running their business.

Viridian Sciences

From the Viridian Sciences Product Page

Viridian Sciences provides the most advanced seed-to-sale technology available with world-class integrated financial cost and project tracking.

Their experience allows them to deliver a comprehensive Cannabis software solution designed to help your business simplify and optimize every aspect of your process with the flexibility to scale to multiple locations, multiple companies, and multiple states.

Regardless of what phase your business is currently in, Viridian Sciences Cannabis Software Solution has been designed to help simplify your path to future growth with cannabis growing, manufacturing, distribution, and financial capability that assists in your compliance reporting. Backed with decades of experience working within industrial and business processes, complex taxation, and government regulations, Viridian Sciences is leading the way with the best integrated, cloud business management software available for the Cannabis industry.

Ample Organics

From the Ample Organics Product Page

The platform makes compliance easy by tracking individual plants from seed to consumer and reporting every detail of the growth, production, and sales processes.

The majority of Canadian cannabis license applicants use Ample Organics in their license application submission, strengthening Canadian seed-to-sale market share and acting as a gateway to other products and services Ample Organics offers.


From the Trellis Product Page

Trellis software was developed inside of a cultivation facility just outside of Toronto when cultivators identified a need for tools to better manage their operations. Built through careful observation of the cultivation process and the combination previous inventory management experience, our software is designed to be an intuitive, operator-friendly solution.

Leaf Data Systems

From the Leaf Data Systems Product Page

Using a closed-loop platform and advanced tagging technology, with Leaf Data Systems, government clients can not only track-and-trace products; they can have a deeper level of transparency and accountability.

Leaf Data Systems is deployed in Pennsylvania, and Washington state. As of 2020, the second generation of Leaf Data Systems is the state regulatory system of Utah.

Last Call Analytics

From the Last Call Analytics Product Page

The platform aggregates up-to-the-minute sales information from every registered retailer on each unique SKU, offering producers intelligent data to optimize demand forecasts.

Solo Sciences

From the Solo Sciences Product Page

solo sciences’ innovative, mobile-first approach to anti-counterfeiting builds loyalty with consumers while showcasing members’ products. Our patented tech platform directly links a proprietary mark (the solo*CODE™, to uniquely fingerprint every individual package) which provides real-time data for retailers, distributors, creators, and producers.

By scanning a solo*CODE with our free mobile app, the consumer gains a plethora of benefits, including detailed product information and action-driven rewards. This secure, closed-loop authentication system surpasses legacy authentication tools, and builds consumer confidence while establishing trust.¬

Akerna Connect

From the Alerna Connect Product Page

Akerna Connect (formerly Guru Systems) launched in 2017 with the purpose of providing dispensaries and brands with a suite of marketing and ecommerce tools that integrate in real-time with seed to sale platforms to form a comprehensive technology strategy. Today Akerna Connect provides online ordering, text message marketing, loyalty programs, mobile apps, landing pages, managed marketing services, and more. All modules are cloud based and mobile friendly.

365 Cannabis

From the 365 Cannabis Product Page

365 Cannabis delivers an ERP solution with functionality specifically tailored to the challenges and requirements of the cannabis industry. Combining traditional supply chain management capabilities with cannabis-specific functionality, 365 Cannabis offers a complete cannabis business management solution. The module-based system allows cannabis businesses to use the system in its entirety or consume modules individually with the option to add more as they scale. 365 Cannabis is the complete cannabis ERP software of choice.

The Roadmap to Compliance

Another consideration as a CTO is your operation’s roadmap to compliance. You likely have a plan to meet local and state regulations, but do you have a plan for when U.S. makes cannabis legal? Do you have a plan for interstate commerce? Do you have a plan for selling internationally? It’s not unusually if you don’t. Many operators in the cannabis space are still small and focused on their local markets. If you can keep your own dispensary stocked, as well as your local partner dispensaries, you’re doing well. Many CTOs are focused on just getting their own operations down and focused on heads-down, keep-the-lights-on activities. However, this is a part of your executive duties that must eventually be addressed. And it looks like Akerna is a good company to meet those needs.

Jessica Billingsley is the CEO of Akerna. She created MJ Freeway, the first seed-to-sale tracking software.

From the MJ Freeway website:

It all started in 2010, in a small cannabis dispensary and cultivation facility in Colorado. Jessica understood the vision of the industry and invested in one of the first 10 dispensaries licensed in Colorado. With a background in tech, Jessica helped the dispensary make the most important decision in their business, what technology they would use to run their business. After research, Jessica soon realized no one was creating software for the specific needs of the cannabis industry. Back then, no one served our industry. Cannabis was considered risky and its future was uncertain. But Jessica saw things differently. She saw an industry with good intentions and lots of possibility.

Jessica teamed up with Amy, a tech and software power player. Together, Jessica and Amy created the first software built specifically for cannabis businesses. MJ Freeway Business Solutions was the very first seed-to- sale tracking for the industry. We set the standard. Since then, we’ve been first to market with every single software feature we’ve offered. And in November 2016, we released the first ever generation 2 cannabis software.

Built on a foundation of meeting regulation and compliance, it does look like Akerna is the right partner for discussions around your regulatory roadmap.

Points to consider when discussing Akerna with your partners

  • Akerna has more than 80 integrated products
  • Akerna generated more than 4.9 million in revenue during the second quarter of 2021
  • Akerna acquired Cannabis 365, a product built on top of Microsoft’s Dynamics platform
  • Akerna acquired Viridian Sciences making them an SAP compliant Business One offering
  • They offer a full business accounting solution
  • Akerna is the answer to a patchwork of integrated systems that require to be customized and managed to meet customer needs

As a CTO or technology leader in a cannabis related business, it doesn’t make sense to take on custom application development to meet cannabis regulatory requirements. Most cannabis related business CTOs are too busy focused on keeping the company running. Partnering with a business like Akerna, a company whose focus is on meeting regulatory requirements through the acquisition of software solutions that meet those needs, is the ideal way to check that future regulatory roadmap task off your list.

Overcoming the Challenges of the Cannabis Industry in 2021

One of the clear takeaways from the financial track of this year’s MJBizCon is that there’s a lot of opportunity in the legal cannabis industry. The last few years have seen new states open to recreational legalization, like Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. And states like Arizona and Mississippi are legalizing.

Startups are seeing more funding this year than they have in years. The U.S. cannabis industry is worth $61 billion and is projected to be worth $80 billion by 2030. That’s a huge market.

However, that doesn’t mean that the industry isn’t without complications.

  • The industry continues to face many legal challenges, especially with cannabis classified as Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substance Act. This is the harshest classification of a drug, putting it right up there with heroin and cocaine.
  • This legal limbo created by the DEA and FDA means that the market will continue to shift and evolve as this changes.
  • Though there are some great banking solutions for plant-touching business, it will continue to be a challenge to work with banks. Many traditional banking options, especially the use of credit cards and certain loans, will continue to be a problem for providers.
  • As more established players enter the field, it will be more difficult for businesses that do not have a strong foothold to retain their place among the competition.
  • And let’s face it, there’s still a big stigma around cannabis. We haven’t even overcome the stigma of alcohol since the Prohibition. In many states there are still Blue Laws that do not allow the sale of beer, wine, and liquor on Sundays.

Many of these challenges present an opportunity for the technology world to step in to help.

  • Better tracking from seed to sell helps bring a level of transparency to the market. MJ Freeway, Elevated Signals, Silver Leaf, and Flourish are just a few of the big players covering everything from cultivation to retail. Many cover the whole vertical.
  • To address these shifting markets and the regular legal changes, ProCanna, Viridian Sciences, and Cannavigia offer solutions to help monitor this ever-changing landscape. Many of these solutions are modular and include integration options with other software. Making this an important part of your overall supply chain flow.
  • Hypur brings compliance and banking together into an integrated solution that includes bank accounts.
  • The best defense against the larger players coming into the market and gobbling everything up at the moment seems to be interesting investment entities like SPACs. And across the cannabis industry, there are regular mergers and acquisitions – even among publicly traded companies. However, there’s still room for things like service co-ops and cannabis related professional service organizations to start making a greater presence in the market.
  • One of the ways that technology can help diffuse the stigma of cannabis is to introduce new ways to consume other than smoking. Smoking is never going away, but options such as low dosage edibles, vapors, and even sprays are available for those who wish to be more discrete in their consumption.

These challenges create new opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors to work together to form new solutions that will make the cannabis industry better in the long run. Right now we’re all still at the beginning of a very young industry, so there’s lots of opportunity to find new ways to both meet consumer demands and legal requirements.

I’m Back from MJBizCon 2021

It’s great to be home…

MJBizCon 2021 was an absolute blast. My wife and I had a great time taking in some sights, eating at a few wonderful restaurants, and drinking more than a goldfish. Las Vegas can be a fun place.

We also made quite a few connections on the show floor. There were a few assumptions I wanted to test out, and walking the floor and talking to the hundreds of vendors made that fairly simple. Here were a few things I discovered.

  1. There’s still a lot of space in the software and integration services
  2. Lots of companies are looking to partner with providers – I think other tech folks are taking lessons learned from other industries and moving them directly into the cannabis space.
  3. Cannabis businesses, despite being in a highly regulated industry, are still searching for governance, guidance, and the same sort of oversight solutions you need in any industry.

One of the more mature areas I think is marketing. There were a number of great players in this space, both from the technical side and from the retail side. Packaging, digital signage, and general marketing systems were in abundance.

There were a few new things, to me – blockchain stickers. These were meant for tracking, security, and brand awareness. I’ve always thought tying unique products to the blockchain was a good use of the technology.

MJBizCon This Week! is this week and I’m here!

One of the many stated goals of this blog is to explore innovation in the cannabis space, specifically in the B2B side. This is apparently the place where deals get made, and great business relationships are formed. I’ll be handing out business cards and speaking to innovators this week. My hope is to come away armed with lots of information and some ideas to take this platform to the next level.

Here are some of the interesting topics I’m looking forward to learning more about:

  • SPACs and the Funding Boom in Cannabis
  • Next wave of innovation
  • Venture capital for startups
  • Smart Cannabis Factory – this is one I’m really looking forward to
  • Anything related to data
  • Anything related to genetics
  • And there are a few “ground up,” sessions that look great

Overall, the next few days look to be a lot of fun and a great chance to learn.

What is CRB Solutions?

Greetings From MJBizCon 2021!

If you’ve found this blog while in Vegas and you’re curious about what I’m about, please read the following:

Building a cannabis business in the pre-federal legalization landscape

As of the writing of this blog post, federal legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational use is still decidedly illegal. Though a number of states have made progress into legalizing medical and recreational marijuana use, the uncertainty around the federal government’s stance on the subject continues to make operating a cannabis related business incredibly risky. This is especially the case for plant-touching operators like cultivators, processors, and retailers. However, if you’ve come across this blog, I’m likely not telling you something you don’t already know.

But like many of you, something about this industry has captured my imagination. CRB Solutions is my attempt to take that enthusiasm and turn it into a profitable venture. We’re at the start of a gold rush, and like many gold rushes that came before, there’s an opportunity to stake out a claim and possible make a fortune. There’s also the chance to lose it all. What I hope to do is take my 20 plus years of technical skills and business knowledge and turn that into solutions that will help cannabis cultivators, processors, and retailers.

Why not just start your own cultivation facility, processing business, or dispensary?

I did stick my foot in the water and attempt to start a cultivation facility. Myself and a group of partners considered purchasing a cultivation facility in Oklahoma this year. During the process, quite a few things became apparent to me:

  1. We would likely run out of money before we saw a successful harvest. We witnessed this from a number of cultivators who were selling their operations. They made it so far, but without a real brand and distribution channels, their war chest dried up quickly.
  2. Though we had partners in the venture with lots of experience, none of us would have the time required to dedicate to the business. High quality, indoor grown cannabis requires a great deal of care, the ideal growing environment, and the sort of watchful eye and timing only an experienced grower can deliver.
  3. Most people who go into this business are not prepared;
    1. They don’t have their finances in order for the type of investors they’ll need to pitch to.
    2. They don’t understand the laws and regulations they’ll need to meet in order to comply with state and local cannabis requirements.
    3. Furthermore, they don’t have the processes and policies in place for the business to succeed on tight margins under tough deadlines.

These were just a few of the issues I saw attempting to do something as simple as buying and running a cultivation facility. As I researched further, it became apparent that this sort of complexity was the very thing that caused many legal cannabis businesses to go under. Basically, unless you really love this industry, there are easier ways to make money. Most people are probably better off taking on a less risky business venture–open a Subway or donut shop, but don’t go into the cannabis industry unless you’re truly prepared for it.

So how do you think you can help?

Cannabis Related Businesses are both like and unlike any other business. Obviously, they have the added burdens of heavy regulations, but they aren’t the only heavily regulated industry. They are, at the end of the day, just a business. And businesses have certain needs, regularly conform to common business patterns, and need some of the same type of technology solutions that any other business needs.

My years of experience working in technology gives me the benefit of helping cannabis related businesses succeed by using business process and technology solutions.

Here are some of the areas where I believe I can help:

  • Innovation workshops – I’ve helped many companies uncover their “secret sauce,” in their particular domains of activity. I use a combination of customer value chain mapping, domain driven design, and team topology to help CIOs and CTOs create their innovation roadmaps. These same workshops and assessments can help cannabis business operators discover what they need to help them rise above the competition.
  • Business systems and policies – I’m working on a set of Standard Operating Procedures now for a cultivation facility. Such processes and systems are common to mature businesses that operate under strict compliance standards. These type of documents and information management systems help define what your business is and how it operates.
  • IoT, Data, and AI – I build data gathering and processing systems for manufacturers and factories. These same type of control systems are a godsend for cultivation, processors, and dispensaries. Closing the loop between people and plants from supply chain to sales will help CRBs succeed. Machine learning models (AI) running at the Edge (on IoT devices) is the future of strict process and decision control.
  • Software Integration – There are many start-ups building excellent software-as-a-service offerings for the Cannabis Related Business. However, many times one solution isn’t ideal. You need multiple solutions to run your entire business. Orchestrating the communication between these systems is a challenge for many operators. Without an IT staff capable of enterprise integration, you may find yourself with wonderful solutions that can’t integrate with each other. This could mean duplicate data entry or lost data from clumsy imports and exports.
  • Data systems development – you really don’t own your own information until you have your own data system. This doesn’t mean you need a Big Data system, but even something as simple as a single database can be a challenge for businesses that don’t have the IT staff to manage it. I can help set up a database that integrates with your existing systems, build decision support systems, and build basic reports.


I’m adding an update, because I believe I’ve found the focus for this blog. I want to help CTOs of small to mid-sized cannabis related businesses, especially plant-touching businesses, meet their innovation and operational needs through information, products, and services.

What does that mean for you, the reader of this blog? It means my articles will be focused on the technology people who work in the retail, processing, and cultivation side of the cannabis market. As a CTO, your task list of things you want to accomplish for your operation is overwhelming. Making decisions is probably one of the single most important part of your job. I want to help make that decision-making easier by earning your trust as an advisor and consultant. This won’t be the traditional one-on-one consulting, but consulting through articles, books, interviews, and products.

Currently, I’m working on a book to help you create and manage Standard Operating Procedures. I’ll continue to review various technology solutions on my blog within the context of a CTO’s job.

And unlike traditionally blogs, I will continue to add to this post when a big milestone is reached.