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How Can I Get The Most Value From My State Reporting and Traceability Systems? 

When Mandatory Traceability Operations were introduced in 2013 the Industry was not all that receptive, to put it mildly. Turned out growers and extractors had major issues with putting their names on digital records of Federal crimes. For most pros, NOT keeping written records of yield data, plant health or growing methods was built into the workflow. That knowledge was kept close and private. Incomplete nutrient recipes, vague production records, hazy propagation schedules were kept on iphone note pads and the drafts folder of ghost gmail accounts to ensure this incriminating information was decentralized and out of the hands of law enforcement. 

Once the rec market went live, and these new tasks became a required part of everyday operations, many growers experienced frustration. Not only was this an entirely new process to incorporate, there was the added expense of the new equipment needed to perform these functions.

When cultivators finished the onboarding process for the State Traceability system, the instruction was usually, “OK now get on Amazon and buy a scale, a scanner, a label printer and some sticky labels and you’ll be ready to go!” The temptation to save a few dollars from an online source is huge during start up mode. There’s a lot of new gear to buy, and most growers have gotten along just fine without it so far. Why waste precious resources on traceability gear? People had no idea what to buy, or how it all worked together. Immediately, or worse, a week or two into the first run, the problems began. 

Those who followed the Amazon advice found that the equipment available to execute this barcode-based traceability chain was not ideal for growing and processing. Worse, there was no support when things didn’t as expected or just malfunctioned. 

This is the paradigm shift that is Cannabis 2.0: That stupid scanner and barcode printer and scale are now Mission Critical pieces of equipment.

These previously useless items now keep the license valid and the whole business operating. Have all the elite cuts, special secret myco teas and SunSpec LED’s you want. If your plants aren’t tagged, your in-process batches aren’t labeled, and your retail barcodes aren’t readable, you’re not actually in the game.

Thankfully, cannabis cultivators now have a wide range of tools and systems available to them to help accomplish the reporting tasks required by the legal States. The smart operations are using the traceability workflow to capture and action the volumes of data generated by their facilites for their advantage. Here’s a few highlights that the Delta9 team has seen bringing our partners success.

Keep your tools close by outfitting a Mobile Traceability Platform. 

The innovative spirit of the Cannabis Industry is on full display with traceability equipment now, and some super cool things are coming forward. A recent, big step forward is the Powered Mobile Traceability Cart. A lithium battery powers a Terminal, Scale, Scanner and Printer, all mounted to a mobile workbench that goes anywhere a person can roll it. This is a piece of standard manufacturing tech that is now being used in the cannabis space to solve a bunch of problems and pain points all at once. 

Today’s cannabis production facilities are big and getting bigger. Many facilities right now have a spot in the front office where the traceability operations take place. Growers take their notes from what they did that day and enter the data into the system, if they remember to. Propagation departments bring the notebook back and print tags for the clones they took that day, and then walk back to put the tags on. This is an incredibly inefficient way to manage these critical tasks and opens up a lot of holes for key operations to fall through. Besides ensuring these operations take place, the cart eliminates the time it takes to walk to and from the place the terminal and printers are. The time seems insignificant, but it adds up quick. The ROI on a Powered Mobile Cart can be matter of months by just reclaiming this lost time.

The Mobile Traceability Cart cleanly places all the equipment needed to perform compliance and traceability operations in one spot. Independent rechargeable battery power enables it able to go and run where it’s needed, anywhere in the facility.

Having the Traceability gear in the place it’s needed has other financial and operational benefits for the operations using them. It allows staff to utilize more features built into State and Third-Party Traceability Systems, like digital pesticide logs and employee time clocks as well as gathering better production data. 

More notes and observations are now in the garden logs, and no plant goes unlabeled for longer than it must be. Having the terminal in the Flower Room hallway during defoliation means waste gets labeled and logged then and there, with notes on what staff saw under the canopy. A Traceability Cart in Mother Room gives managers access to atmospheric sensor data and room analytics. Harvest stations have SOP’s handy for training and accountability for new hires

Overall these systems allow businesses to record more of the data generated daily, and make these traceability operations about their business instead of the making reports for the government.

Selecting water and dust resistant equipment is so important. 

The cannabis cultivation environment can be hard on electronics. The high humidity of grow rooms, combined with the exposure to splashed nutrients, atomized foliar feeding and flying kief will shorten the life of electronic equipment significantly. Look for gear that was engineered with industrial and commercial use in mind. 

This is crucial for the scanner and scale particularly, as they are exposed to plant material and raw resin the most and have the most sensitive components. Find equipment for these categories that are easy to clean, and are built to last, and make sure the warrantees are valid. It will cost a little more during start up, but not as much as replacing them!

When selecting printers for plant and processing labels, be prepared and count on growth. 

Putting a printer in place that seems a little over-clocked for what you need right now makes sure your business has room to grow and won’t be held back once you do. Be prepared for the different applications required by cannabis businesses. 

For plant ID always go for a durable Poly material for media, and use Thermal Transfer tech to print. Thermal Transfer printing melts a durable wax or resin onto the label that is waterproof, won’t rub or scratch off, and won’t bleach out under artificial or natural light. 

For In-Process batches, or any “throw away” applications, Direct Thermal is quick, and doesn’t require the Transfer ribbon, which saves money. For printing retail barcode tags operators can go either way, but keep in mind that Direct Thermal labels can fade and can be damaged with exposure to heat or pressure. 

When selecting a terminal, picture it with you in the Workflow. 

The terminal, or computer station of a Traceability Platform is the brain of the system. Minimum functionality is to connect the Scanner, Scale, and Printer to each other and allow the operator to use them in concert to access, record and enter data into the software. It will connect via the web to State reporting or a Third-Party Traceability System and will be used to input the required data the State needs. 

Look for a terminal that is durable, and wireless capable, with as many USB ports as possible. All the components and peripherals needed for traceability operations will be USB.

Bringing consultants and staff that is off site into the garden with chat features puts more resources into grow rooms. Here is where a good quality laptop or Commercial Grade tablet really shines. Many organizations will have staff all over the country that would benefit in seeing details on the plants and overall picture of a room. Being able to show a consultant or staff gardener a problem area will help in identifying the right adjustment, and only increases the likelihood that help can be where it’s needed, when it’s needed. 

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Chris Guthrie
Chris is the General Manager of Delta9 Systems, a division of General Data Co. He is an expert in the cannabis industry, having participated in the birth of the cannabis industry in Washington, and has operated one of the first and oldest medical dispensaries in Seattle. For a decade, Chris has participated in the design and managed the construction of dozens of indoor gardens, and has been involved in cultivation, processing, retail operations, as well as industry activism.
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