Cannabis Quality Control from Farm to Fingertip (S1:E11)

Cannabis Quality Control from Farm to Fingertip

As a self-regulated ingestible, it is a no-brainer that we need to be deploying high-tech solutions for quality control in cannabis and the overall betterment of the industry. Joining our cry for smarter, safer standards, we chat with Tim Daly, President at TrueGreen, the world’s first cloud-based cannabis asset and smart packaging management platform. We talk about the digital transformation and how to be better advocates for cannabis standards.

Full Transcript

Host (00:01):
You’re listening to Humans In Tech. Our podcast explores today’s most transformative technology and the trends of tomorrow, bringing together the brightest minds in and outside of our industry. We unpack what’s new in physical access, identity verification, cybersecurity, and IOT ecosystems. We reach beyond the physical world, discuss our digital transformation as a species, and dive into the emerging digital experience. Join us on our journey as we discover just how connected the future will be and how we will fit into that picture.

Identiv is committed to authenticity and safety. Its RFID and NFC solutions verify identities and security in the IOT and are embedded in billions of everyday objects, including medical devices, books, toys, athletic apparel, perishable and pharmaceuticals, letting you create your own products, ecosystems and experiences. As the company continues its high-momentum growth in smart packaging and digitized consumer experiences, one particular partnership stands out. Leigh Dow, VP of Global Marketing at Identiv, is joined by Tim Daly, President at TrueGreen. TrueGreen is the world’s first smart packaging technology addressing the diverse needs of cannabis industry regulators, growers, and consumers. From farm to fingertip, TrueGreen automates product and consumer data in real time to enhance convenience and deliver insights that drive growth and brand loyalty, while ensuring product safety and control.

Leigh Dow (01:42):
So, people have asked me if I feel we’re being too provocative in the way that we talk about cannabis. The truth is, it’s a self-regulated ingestible, so it’s a no-brainer that we really need to have deployed high-tech solutions for quality control and just the overall betterment of the industry. I don’t feel that’s provocative. It’s a cry for smarter, safer standards.

Host (02:02):
I have a feeling Tim will agree.

Tim Daly (02:04):
Agree 100%. That’s a very accurate statement.

Leigh Dow (02:08):
So Tim, it’s so good to have you with us today. You’ve been such a strong advocate presence in the RFID industry over the years. And we’d love to talk with you today about the transformation you’re seeing and leading in cannabis. So first, can you give us a rundown of your history with RFID and NFC in general? Your voice is so well-known in the industry.

Tim Daly (02:27):
Well, thank you for that. And I’m happy to, and I’m smiling. You can’t see that I’m smiling because I love to tell this story. My daughter, when she first received her driving permit many, many years ago, over a decade ago, she wanted to pump gas herself. And so she went to the pump, she pumped her gas, and then she got in the car and said, “Dad, I can’t wait for the day that I can pay for my gas using my phone.” And I said, “Well, of course.” I mean, I’m thinking to myself, “Of course. Why wouldn’t we do that? We’re all now starting to buy these smart devices. Why wouldn’t we be able to use that smart device to connect to the things we care about?” And so at the time, I was running a media company and coincidentally had been exploring ways to transform physical media to digital media. And this is before even QR codes were a thing.

So to make a long story short, as I was familiar with RFID technology, there was a new standard that was being spoken about called NFC. And despite the fact there was only one phone in the entire world that could read NFC, I embarked on a mission to digitize media with NFC and formed a company called Thinaire, and we were the first ID management platform that would manage NFC IDs in the cloud and assign and associate content to those IDs based upon context. So yeah, that’s my background. From Thinaire, we did most of the big, global engagements with all the CPGs. We digitized all of News America Marketing’s footprint, which was like 75,000 retail locations across North America. I had the pleasure of working with all the big CPGs from P&G to Kraft Heinz to Mondelez to Adidas, Nine West. I mean, you name it. The list is huge.

And so, we had a lot of fun doing first ever engagements for media, and then first ever engagements for physical objects. We were the ones that developed and designed the original Adidas running shoe, Boost running shoe NFC tags. And so, we launched the first ever intelligent devices and products in the marketplace. And so, here we are today. From there, I became the NFC evangelist for NXP. And then from NXP, had a concept of digitizing cannabis, and that brings us to where we are today.

Leigh Dow (05:07):
So, how did you find yourself moving into digitizing cannabis products and the smart packaging with RFID and NFC? Can you talk to us a little bit about the birth of TrueGreen?

Tim Daly (05:18):
Sure. So, it’s a known challenge globally that there is a significant black market in cannabis. I mean, cannabis essentially has been illegal since day one. However, in Canada, they were the second country after Uruguay to legalize cannabis federally, and they put together a very robust set of rules, laws and systems to ensure a quality product to the end consumer, and a very robust licensing process for producers. And so, well, I saw an opportunity. This is while I was at NXP as their NFC evangelist. I saw an opportunity about three years ago to engage the Canadian government and show them how they could digitize their existing cannabis excise stamp. So just as background, every cannabis package in Canada requires a provincial cannabis excise stamp. And so, I went to the Canadian government, they introduced me to their defacto treasury that produces the stamp, which is called Canadian Bank Note.

And I set about on a path with them to develop a digital solution that would go in the physical excise stamp, and that digital solution would allow for authentication and verification of the product. It would allow for a direct and legal prepurchase marketing message with the minimal required marketing information, so a picture of the brand, its chemical contents, the fact that it’s authentic. And then post purchase, so after a consummated commercial transaction package is open, we would then be able to launch a contextual, direct from brand to marketing message. And so, that’s what we built in Canada. And when the administration changed here in 2020, it was clear that there was an accelerated path towards legalization in the States. At the state level, we see more and more states legalizing medicinal and now recreational use cannabis. And to me, it was clear that there was an accelerated path forward for that happening. And so, I took the concepts that we built up in Canada and we formed a company called TrueGreen here in the States to roll this solution out across all of the United States and of course, now North America.

Leigh Dow (08:03):
So, true story. I have a minor in geography and I had to go back in my brain and say, “Uruguay? Where’s Uruguay?”

Tim Daly (08:12):
It’s actually hard enough to even say Uruguay properly.

Leigh Dow (08:15):
Yeah. So the industry’s clearly growing, and AIM North America notes the 2021 market size of US cannabis industry is approximately $20 billion, and it’s forecasted to grow to $45 billion over the next four years. So, how is partnering with Identiv helping you to meet the demands of that growth?

Tim Daly (08:33):
So those numbers, I think, will prove to be low. I’ve seen numbers that are significantly higher. So again, none of us truly know because we don’t know what the path forward will be at the state and the federal level. But the fact remains that more and more states are approving it. Voters want it, constituents want it, and it will happen in my opinion. So, Identiv has always been the best partner from my perspective in working on large NFC projects. The flexibility of Identiv, your scale, your ability to pivot quickly and make things happen, your personnel; there’s nothing good that I can’t say about Identiv. I’ve had so many great experiences working with the Identiv team over the years, and we’ve come up with a lot of innovative solutions.

And when I started to talk to you, when I was working on the Canadian project, Identiv was the most flexible. You came in, you assigned people to it immediately. And we developed a proprietary product within a month that was a perfect solution for that marketplace. So the flexibility, the people, the scale of Identiv, has made it so easy to work with you guys. And I know that you guys are going to continue to scale as this marketplace grows and grows and grows.

Leigh Dow (09:59):
Yeah. I think one of the things that we’re best known for is being great design engineering partners.

Tim Daly (10:03):
Yes. Yeah, and that’s a really great point. So, the solution that we developed in Canada was NFC only. The solution that we’ve developed here with TrueGreen is a combined UHF RFID and NFC solution. And so, that required some creative thinking and engineering, and we had a limited sized footprint where this entire technology package could go. And we sketched it out, but you guys brought it to life. So, it’s extraordinary, the talents that your team has in making these things become real.

Leigh Dow (10:40):
Oh, well, thank you for that. We know TrueGreen provides the world’s first cloud-based cannabis asset and smart packaging management platform powered by our sensors, but this is one of the only true, high-tech solutions built for cannabis. Why do you think there’s been a lag in making cannabis safer and more secure?

Tim Daly (10:58):
So it’s a great question, and I think that there’s a number of factors at play. One is that it has been an illegal, illicit market for so long. And secondly, as the States started to legalize it at the state level, it’s still not legal federally. So, and you have a lot of operators that come from the grow side versus the corporate and supply chain side. And so, they adopted what they thought were quick and easy, low-cost ways to get to market, which is utilizing old barcodes, and it’s how they came to market. However, it didn’t solve the problems out there. It didn’t solve truly the diversion issues where there is still a thriving black market. It doesn’t really solve the issues for authentication of product, and it doesn’t help to create connections between brands and consumers. Education is paramount. Consumers want to know that they’re consuming a product that’s safe, reliable. They want to know what the effects are. They want to have somebody that can help steward their journey into and through cannabis, and particularly when it’s viewed from a medicinal standpoint.

The great cannabis companies are all looking at ways to be that said steward. So, if you have pain in a certain area, what products are going to solve that best for you? And the evolution is exciting but the history is, was slow to get started and adopted; old industry standards. Our goal is to bring 21st century, globally scaled standards that are well-dispersed throughout the retail and supply chain right now, and that’s effectively what we’re doing. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. UHF RFID and NFC work really, really well and they’re incredibly safe and secure, so those existing products will solve all the big problems and challenges that the cannabis industry is facing today, from a producer perspective, from a consumer perspective, and from a regulator perspective.

Leigh Dow (13:09):
So, it’s always been really interesting to me that this is a ingestible product that is not FDA regulated, so it seems like a no-brainer, right? That something needs to be in place to make it safer and more secure for the consumer.

Tim Daly (13:22):
Yes. Yeah. I mean, the number one concern that consumers have, from our research, is they want to know that they’re consuming a safe and secure product. They want to know who produced it, they want to know what the contents are and they want to know what the effects are. So, I think that the FDA is starting to wake up and realize that this is going to happen, and they need to start to understand the effects and to produce some studies. I did read yesterday that they have purchased, I think I saw they purchased a million pounds of raw flower to provide testing, so it’s moving forward. And our goal is to be the system and the solution that takes the friction out of the marketplace and provides visibility for all constituents, the ones I mentioned before; the producer, the consumer, and the regulator.

Leigh Dow (14:16):
So, the TrueGreen platform really digitizes individual cannabis products with unique RFID NFC signatures. It supports UHF asset tracking through the supply chain. It authenticates product and protects against package tampering. It creates compliant, personalized marketing and customer engagement. I mean, it’s really the definition of an end-to-end solution. So, can you take our listeners on a little bit of a deeper dive into what that looks like in action?

Tim Daly (14:42):
So yes, I mean, you’re right on. What we do with the TrueGreen solution is we digitize each individual cannabis package when it is in fact packaged. So, each cannabis product now has a unique digital ID. It is using NFC. We have authentication in the cloud to ensure that it is exactly what it says it is. The proprietary chip package that we use includes a tamper-evident NFC tag, so we know whether the package has ever been opened, and that is unassailable and cannot be changed once it has been opened. So, the workflow is we’re using the UHF RFID to track work in process, to track shipping, receiving, all the manifesting that is standard throughout today’s global supply chain. And then upon receipt at a dispensary, it’s to digitally intake that product in without having to relabel it. It’s digitally connecting to existing POS systems and vendors.

And then going forward at the dispensary, it’s allowing for very efficient, very accurate, time-saving inventory of products. The number one challenge right now for budtenders at a dispensary is the time it takes to do physical inventory. So, they’re using handheld readers with optical readers, and that’s of course only by line of sight. It’s also subject to printing errors or other problems that may happen with the barcode, so it is a very lengthy and time-consuming process. Using UHF RFID and handheld scanners, we’re reducing that time for inventory down from hours to minutes. We’re increasing inventory accuracy as to close to 100% as you can get. And of course, the more accurate the inventory is the more accurate the systems are for POS that will reduce stock-outs and things of that nature. From the cash register to the consumer, the NFC really comes into play.

So, the brand now has the ability to have a direct connection with the end consumer to talk to them about the product, to be a sommelier of cannabis, to create bespoke solutions and product recommendations, and to build loyalty. None of this exists in the marketplace today, and so our platform is designed to provide for all of that and to, via API, plug into all those existing solutions out there. So we’re not a loyalty companies, but we can plug into all the different loyalty solutions. We’re not a POS vendor, but we’ll plug into all the different POS vendors, so on and so forth.

Leigh Dow (17:26):
Gotcha. So, what are the obstacles you foresee in adoption of this technology and cannabis in particular? And how can we be better advocates for standards in cannabis?

Tim Daly (17:35):
So, of course it still is a federally illegal product, although, as I said earlier, we do feel that’s going to change. And I think it’s all about education. We need to educate the industry. We need to be advocates for a safe, secure supply chain. We need to be advocates for clarity to the consumer understanding what the product is and what the effects may be, understanding what the correct dosing is for them, and I think that’s done best through education. So educating the brands, educating the dispensaries, and educating the regulators. And that’s the approach that we’ve taken in that we are talking to the industry, we’re talking to every major player out there. We are actively engaged with regulators and legislators at the state and the federal level. And it’s exciting because everybody has essentially the same goal in mind; they want a safe, secure product. And they’re listening. They are actively listening. And it’s very exciting to be at the forefront of all of this.

Leigh Dow (18:39):
Well, thank you so much for your time. It’s always enlightening to speak with you and learn more about the industry, and you being, like you said, at the forefront of it, just getting your perspective. So, we really appreciate you joining us.

Tim Daly (18:51):
Well, I thank you. I mean, I thank you for this because again, it’s about educating everybody out there, all the constituency. But Identiv has just been such a great partner. I’m so thrilled to be working with you and together, we’re really going to change for the better this entire industry. So, thanks to you and all of the Identiv team.

Leigh Dow (19:13):
For sure. All right, thanks Tim.

Host (19:16):
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Physical security. Identity verification. The IOT. The hyperconnectivity of our lives will only grow more pervasive. As technology becomes more automated and experiences more augmented, it’s up to us to preserve our humanity and use new tools and trends for good. The only question is, are we up for the challenge?