Tuesday 29th June 2021
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Rua Bioscience and the University of Waikato have announced a ground-breaking, two-year research programme to investigate the application of hyperspectral technology to the cultivation and assessment of medicinal cannabis, paving the way for Rua to enter New Zealand’s booming agritech sector.
Primarily driven by global demand for medicinal cannabis, commentators expect the cannabis testing industry to be worth $2.5bn (USD$1,806 million) by 2025 (Markets and Markets, 2021). However, current analytical methods present significant challenges for commercial cannabis growers. Testing requires the destruction of some product, is expensive and the turn-around of results means delays in decision-making.
Researchers at Rua Bioscience and the University of Waikato hope real-time monitoring using hyperspectral imaging will change all that, with the potential to transform the way the global medicinal cannabis industry qualifies, assesses and manages its crops. Hyperspectral technology involves imaging that collects and processes information from across the visible and near-infrared spectrum. Screening methods using hyperspectral imaging are increasingly used in precision agriculture to determine optimal harvest timings, detect pests and diseases and the chemical profile of living plants. But, due to tight legal restrictions on cannabis cultivation, little work has been done to test the technology on cannabis crops.
The two-year proof-of-concept project aims to develop and prototype an automated, near-infrared imaging system that will enable the on-site assessment of individual cannabis plants in real-time without destroying any product.
The partnership follows ground-breaking work led by Dr Melanie Ooi (Associate Professor at the University of Waikato), Wayne Holmes (Senior Lecturer, Unitec Institute of Technology) and Rua Bioscience. Rua’s research team has programmed the project for the next two years. Dr. Ooi’s research is partly supported by the University of Waikato and the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship. The project has also received funding from Unitec.
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