Could automated testing technologies take the cannabis market to the next level?
Toby Astill | | Opinion
Around the world, legal medicinal and recreational cannabis use is growing rapidly. A global trend that has continued to rise despite the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the US, where states and territories with legal cannabis markets deemed the sector an essential industry. But it has not all been plain sailing.
The pandemic has fueled staffing challenges in cannabis testing, with labs struggling to find the skilled staff that they need. This and the desire for the industry to break into new geographies and market segments at the same time, is also leading to the need for more intuitive technologies to ensure reliable testing and analysis which is vital for providing processors with confidence in their developing supply chains.
The cannabis industry is no stranger to innovative testing technologies but, especially for a young field struggling with human resources, automated analysis appears to be a clear front runner in helping meet the challenges and opportunities within the growing sector. With sensitive, accurate and easy-to-use semi- or fully- automated testing technologies, labs and processors are able to meet regulatory and customer demands without the need to source scores of highly trained scientists and operators.
Automated mycotoxin and pesticide testing solutions provide streamlined sample prep, increased throughput, decreased cost per sample and feature “set it and forget it” functionality for all stages of the testing workflow. Prebuilt cannabis analysis methods that have been optimized for leading state regulations can also be used in concert to help increase efficiency and reproducibility, all while decreasing time and resource requirements.
In addition to the technology itself, cannabis testing can also generate a lot of data. With manual analysis proving both laborious and training-intensive, automated systems can help deliver accurate and consistent results to clients or relevant regulatory frameworks. Combining easy-to-use automated systems with powerful yet intuitive software can help ensure that the right data is easily collected, accessed, analyzed, and accurately reported.
Additionally, ensuring any implemented software is open-source, the ability to connect and rapidly analyze data from multiple, varied instruments, will further simplify analysis. Such benefits will help labs future-proof their efforts against growing sample volumes and regulatory demands as the industry continues its rapid expansion into the food and beverage sector.
So, what now? I’d argue that the ever-expanding cannabis market requires automated workflows on an open-source platform to help accommodate any future pesticide or mycotoxin targets that might be added to state or country regulations as producers work to keep pace. In my mind, education around regulations and best practices for implementing the newest generation of automated cannabis testing technologies is a great place to start.
But regardless of how the cannabis industry evolves and the regulations in this industry change, automation has the potential to allow the industry to not only keep up with demand, but also to advance, innovate, and thrive.