Running a successful and compliant cannabis grow facility requires vast expertise and careful attention to detail — to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of a rapidly scaling business model, most operators have incorporated technology to help streamline the cultivation process.
We recently caught up with Scott Campbell, CEO of AROYA — a cannabis cultivation technology and processing firm — to discuss the company’s technology suite. This interview covers the power of data collection, how the company’s real-time tracking capabilities can streamline the upwards scaling of commercial cannabis farms, the types and amount of R&D that went into creating the integrated software and technology platforms, and more!
Find the full interview below.
Ganjapreneur: When did METER Group decide to start AROYA, and what was the inspiration behind that decision?
Scott Campbell: So we’ve been operating in the sensor and soil moisture analysis spaces for almost 40 years. Our company draws its roots in academic research, and invented and patented the technology that helps people measure their environment with that same level of precision.
The extension of those technologies to cannabis, including new instruments we brought to market along the way, wasn’t an immediate get for us at first. But it’s a natural fit. Cannabis shares much in common with broader horticulture yet it’s the one crop in the market experiencing significant year-over-year growth. We saw the opportunity.
We realized if we could develop robust, integrated software in-house to help growers make sense of their data, that we could shape the way cannabis is cultivated, harvested, and produced. People have been growing for generations, yet not at this (legalized) scale. AROYA ultimately is a tool to help steer that scaling process in a way that helps everyone win.
How does Aroya improve the daily operations of a cultivation team?
It’s funny, you know, I walk into a lot of growhouses when we visit clients or prospective clients, and I’m surprised how many operations still use things like whiteboards, spreadsheets, and pen-and-paper to keep track of their data. People who walk around with a clipboard or literally stick their hands in the dirt.
Everything in your growhouse, from your plant to your drying room to the substrate to the C-suite, contains valuable data. There’s so much lost opportunity when you don’t have access to all of it in a way that’s integrated, organized, easily accessible and actionable. You’re doing a lot of guessing and manual entry.
The way AROYA works is to give everyone visibility into what’s going on, what’s worked before, and how to continuously learn and improve. Not just every day, but with every batch. Everyone can focus their efforts on what they do best because we do what we do.
What makes AROYA different from other optimized cultivation platforms?
I think we’re different because we’re not an optimized cultivation platform. Or at least, that’s not all that we are. For us, cultivation software and analytics are a feature, not a product.
Yes, we can help you crop steer. Yes, we can help you increase yields by giving you access to valuable insights during prop, veg, and flower stages. But we’re also the instruments that give you the foundation of rich, precision data in real time and across time. We also provide hardware and software to help post-harvest with drying, processing, compliance, and so on. It’s a true seed-to-package solution, and I know that’s a buzzword, but I think what makes us different is that at least from what we know about the space so far … we don’t have natural competitors. No one’s yet followed us to all the places we go or to the places AROYA has yet to go.
What long-term benefits might a cultivator expect to see after implementing AROYA software?
The short answer is an increase in grams per square foot per year. That’s the metric that matters when it comes to increasing profitability over time.
More than that, though, is a streamline of processes and an increased ability to test, track, learn, and improve. You can keep track of all your historical data with extraordinary detail, access it anytime, and be able to use it to keep your quality consistent and also experiment with the way you grow.
AROYA helps everyone do their job better and gives the right people visibility to everything they need to know, to continue to run their operation better over time.
What kinds of data does AROYA software capture and store?
Rather than rattle off a list of everything we measure, I could keep it high level and say there’s very little in a grow room that can’t be measured. The substrate “black box” isn’t a black box anymore. We provide that level of visibility with our instruments and those readings feed right back into the software. We have precision climate sensing technology for your environment as well. You can really dial in your cultivation practices that way.
Post-harvest, we also measure moisture content. Drying should be an exact science, especially if you’re trying to optimize for quality. We help you do that with an integrated solution that’s about 10x more accurate than anything else on the market today.
When you take all that data and you bundle it with IPM, business intelligence, compliance (we integrated with METRC in several states and keep adding to that list), and plant tracking, the amount of data available to AROYA and therefore to you is almost endless. Still, we find we can always add additional features to be even more robust and we’re excited to keep pushing the envelope there.
What kind of customer support do you provide for clients when they experience Metrc outages or issues with integration?
We have a dedicated customer success team for our commercially licensed growers. We have SMEs on the hardware, software, business, and cultivation sides who can triage and help you troubleshoot. We’re always looking to elevate our support, too. We want our customers to have faith that the thing they trust to just work keeps working, whether that’s with Metrc outages or integration.
How might a cultivator use this information to help scale their operation? And are there other applications for this data that can be beneficial to a business?
So I think specifically increasing yield and making high-quality grow ops replicable are the main things that speed up the scaling process. At least on the cultivation side. And everyone I talk to has plans to keep expanding: new facilities, new states, new markets, more vertical integration.
But I also think that streamlining workflow and providing that extra layer of visibility in a secure, seamless way helps people save on time, labor, additional tools, etc. So you can run lean and mean while ramping up: a 10,000 square foot facility, if they purchase AROYA and use it to its full capability and give the plants what they need, could make their money back on it in less than a month. Now imagine if you’re getting 4, 5, 6 pounds per light instead of 2, 3. Now you’re getting 2x, 3x, maybe more, out of the same physical imprint. That’s massive for scaling purposes.
How does AROYA help growers manage cultivar-specific crop steering?
So we help people track and take action rooted in their data by strain, by room, by batch. So at the cultivar level AROYA gives insights into recipes. You can create them, save them, and recall them when you want to replicate what’s worked before for that specific cultivar. It’s pretty powerful to be able to trust that by following the same process, you should get the same results. That level of consistency builds trust in your own customers and ultimately elevates your brand and reputation in the market.
When did the company introduce processing features?
Starting in 2020, we rolled out processing as another set of features to AROYA and we just kept releasing post-harvest updates and features through 2021. That’s when we really started calling what we offer a cannabis production platform. It’s not just crop steering, it’s not just cultivation. It’s the whole lifecycle of the plant and the protection of your IP. It’s really a game-changer and I think it still goes underutilized. We’re looking to change that and continue to add even more to help people improve every aspect of their cannabis production operation.
What kind of R&D did you go through before launching the processing platform?
Our company is rooted in research. For example, our TEROS 12 along with our wireless Bluetooth mesh capability are paradigm-shifting technologies that have been rigorously tested and honed over time. I call those out specifically, because the ability to accurately measure EC in real time is fundamental to everything we do. The wireless data collection is unique to AROYA and to get those essential capabilities to market took obsessive innovation and piloting of the hardware and networking.
We have engineers, data scientists, cultivators, QA, testing, and access to operators around the country to help us continually refine what we build. This stuff takes months to research, develop, test, and refine roll out successfully.
We also do listening tours of our customers and do site visits often. We want to know what they’re seeing, what they’re needing, what they’re lacking, and what in their hands they want to be able to produce the highest quality product. I think customer insights are the most valuable of all. You can do all the engineering in the world, if the stuff you make isn’t valuable to your customers or aligned with their strategic vision or addressing their pain points, then it won’t fly.
What do you think the future of commercial cannabis cultivation looks like?
The industry is definitely in growth mode and with it comes a maturity and a thinning of the herd. Commercial cannabis cultivation is going to standardize and optimize for efficiency as it grows and the market reaches saturation. Prices will come down, margins will need to be protected. It’ll look and feel closer and closer to other comparable agriculture and horticulture verticals. There’s a lot of anxiety in the industry now about what things will become in the future, even among the most successful operators. Things evolve quickly but markets all tend to follow the same path to maturation. (Even if that path is volatile and highly regulated.)
We all know as the money pours in from people who didn’t come up through the legacy market or from companies that have no prior attachment to cannabis, we run the risk of Big Cannabis becoming too “corporate” and recreating the same inequities we see in other industries. So I think as the industry matures, we need to preserve the culture of cannabis and find a way to protect legacy growers, foster opportunities and access to the people who shepherded this plant through the prohibition era.
We have a slam-dunk opportunity to do this the right way and let everyone passionate about this plant be able to share in the rewarding experience of steering the industry out of the darkness and into its golden era.
Big thanks to Scott for sharing his insights on the use of data in cannabis cultivation. Learn more about AROYA and Scott Campbell at aroya.io.