AI Potcast: A Joint Discussion on AI, Agtech with Grownetics CEO

by Allison Toh

The grass really is greener on the AI side. Grownetics CEO and co-founder Vince Harkiewicz would know. He helps grow it.

AI isn’t new to agtech, of course. But Grownetics, an intelligent cultivation management system for indoor farms and greenhouses, has a very specific focus: cannabis.

“We’ve specifically targeted the cannabis industry because there’s a lack of tools built for them and indoor agriculture as a whole,” Harkiewicz explained in a conversation with AI Podcast host Noah Kravitz.

Grownetics handles every step of the cultivation process, Harkiewicz says.  Using harvest data, an open sensor network and a deep learning recommendation engine, the company provides a “specific recipe leading to an ideal yield for that particular variety” of cannabis, or any crop.

While he’s focused cannabis, for now, Harkiewicz believes Grownetics’ work in the industry will support growth in the broader indoor agriculture market.

“I’d argue that [the cannabis industry is] leading the indoor-ag field,” Harkiewicz said. “The two industries don’t really communicate too much yet, and that’s really what we’re striving to do, is to bridge precision agriculture, indoor agriculture with what’s been going on in the cannabis space.”

Based in Boulder, Colo., Grownetics began running beta tests at the end of last year. Since then, the company has gained eight clients and hopes to commercially launch at the end of this year.

“It’s been intense,” Harkiewicz said. “Not only are we a startup, but we’re a startup in a startup industry.”

The cannabis industry has seen immense growth in recent years as multiple countries and U.S. states have legalized cannabis for medicinal and recreational use. However, for Grownetics’ operations in the U.S., the federal legal status of the crop poses an extra hurdle.

“Because of the federal legality, or illegality of the cannabis industry, it’s artificially suppressing the market and making it extremely hard for our customers to grow and scale great businesses,” Harkiewicz said.

Even with these legal challenges, Harkiewicz is optimistic about the future of the cannabis industry and its influence on agriculture.

“This is a systemic evolution that we’re looking at, from producing the unique medicinal product in cannabis, and doing it in a pharmaceutical high-quality, clean way,” Harkiewicz said.

“And then taking those same traits to leafy greens and produce to be growing them indoors without any pesticides, and very, very efficiently.”

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