Last month, UK agricultural innovators gathered at Agri-Tech’s East vertical farming conference at Rothamsted, one of the world’s leading plant research centres.
Various speakers took to the stage to champion their novel, and in some instances, powerful ambitions for the future of agriculture. Fruit picking robots and inflatable hydro farms filled the screen, and yet when George McBride, of the cannabis consultancy Hanway Associates, rasied his hand to ask whether one speaker had considered applying their technology to medicinal marijuana, a nervous chuckle spread through the room.
“Too risky…” said the speaker, as if someone had suggested pinching a policeman’s hat.
Now I know that the wheels of the tractor turn slow, but if prohibition’s falling apart around you, it may not necessarily be the time to find yet another way grow a lettuce.
Why is it that these innovators seem blind-sided by a change in demand? Who knows, but the old English Ag is certainly paying attention, perhaps because Brexit’s about to re-write their subsidies, or perhaps because if they’ve made it this far they must have had at least one eye on the future.
Of course, cannabis has its hurdles; not least regulation, restrictions and a reputation that’s hard to mesh a mission statement of feed the planet. But it may well be that the best time to invest in a market is whilst everyone else is still turning there nose up at it…