Among the Legget Drive towers that house a community of established and growing technology companies, one name stands out: Tweed.
Though not a tech company in its own right, Tweed and its parent company Canopy Growth have connections to Kanata North through its founder, local tech entrepreneur Bruce Linton.
And while a tech park may seem a strange fit for a cannabis firm, Canopy Growth is actually right among the hardware and software engineers it’s currently leveraging to develop high-tech vaporizing devices and seize on other opportunities as the recreational market prepares for the next wave of legalization in late 2019.
The Tweed office is also neighboured by a collection of companies poised to provide for the budding industry.
One such company is video surveillance tech firm March Networks.
Best known for its work in helping to secure banks and large retailers, March Networks’s start in the cannabis industry came not in Canada, but in the U.S., where 10 states have legalized the drug for recreational use since 2012.
U.S. regulators are highly concerned with compliance when it comes to tracking cannabis plants from seed to sale.
To March Networks, this was an opportunity.
“We got in early and built a brand around it,” says March Networks CEO Peter Strom, adding that the Kanata company’s strategy is to target micro-verticals and tailor its products to address the specific needs of those industries.
Strom says March Networks identified early on the need for video surveillance tools in the cannabis industry, but soon after realized the technology would need to be more involved than that.
Because of the strict regulations in the U.S. arising from the discrepancy in cannabis’ legality between various states, “we realized very quickly that you’re going to need software to track this stuff,” says Strom.
March Networks’ software, SearchLight, uses video and data analytics to track cannabis from grow facilities to dispensaries using partner Zebra’s RFID tag, an industry-regulated process that requires each plant and package to be tagged from seed to sale.
“We’ve actually built a unique application that not only includes our video surveillance system, but also includes software which allows the grower to track that plant as it goes through its growth phase,” explains Strom. “We know exactly where that plant is at all times.”
The company has also provided video surveillance to dispensaries in the U.S. Just as in more traditional storefronts – if not more so – security is a top priority for cannabis retailers. Strom says the company is also looking at leveraging that technology using analytics to provide retailers with a better understanding of customer patterns, an offering the firm is already starting to market.
For example, March Networks’s technology would gather data on how many customers frequent a store, how long they spend in line, and other metrics common to the retail space. Using data analytics, cannabis retailers could make business decisions about how many points-of-sale to operate, which products people spend the most time perusing, and how they like to shop.
In Canada, March Networks is rolling out these video surveillance tools to be used in growing facilities, vehicles transporting cannabis and retail dispensaries now that recreational marijuana is legal nationwide.
Seed-to-sale tracking isn’t mandatory in Canada, but the security requirements for cannabis retail are still high, and Strom says March Networks recently signed a deal with a national producer, which he did not name, to supply surveillance technology in both dispensaries and production facilities.
“That market keeps growing for us … As other countries legalize recreational use, and as Canadian companies go out and acquire companies around the world, they’re going to be relying on us to continue to provide video surveillance in those locations,” says Strom.
Readying for retail
Another Kanata North company that’s keeping a close eye on the regulations – and opportunities – surrounding the cannabis sector is Momentum Law.
Founder and CEO Megan Cornell says the firm is offering an online-based training program for those interested in getting into cannabis retail.
With 13 modules to begin with at a monthly cost of $100, Cornell says the program targets anyone interested in the upcoming opportunity to sell cannabis in Ontario, applications for which opened in December. The modules will include topics such as the three-step application system, legal and community considerations for picking a location, and point-of-sale technology.
It’s a brand-new industry with a lot of moving parts, she says. “Because of the time pressure … we are trying to take all of these little pieces.”
For example, when it comes to choosing a location, there’s more to the decision that meets the eye.
“They could potentially lose months and a huge investment if they end up signing a lease in a space that ultimately doesn’t get a license because of community opposition,” explains Cornell. “So those are some of the pieces that we’ll be bringing in the external expertise to deal with.”
Cornell says the modules will draw upon outside sources, including interviews with various industry experts and producers.
“We want to make sure that on the legal side, everyone’s really prepared to be compliant,” says Cornell, adding that her firm is constantly updating itself on the changing legislation.
The Canadian recreational cannabis industry may be new, but it offers opportunities for companies who already work in a variety of sectors such as retail, agriculture and security – sectors with which many Kanata North companies are familiar.
Strom says though March Networks discussed the optics of getting into cannabis retail at an early stage, they didn’t see any negative implications on the horizon for their business.
“At the end of the day, we’re a technology company,” says Strom. “There’s a lot of different technologies that go into a dispensary or grow-op. I don’t think anybody’s going to vilify that.”