Monitoring Systems for Outdoor Hemp Cultivation

With the increasing popularity of hemp cultivation outdoors and in greenhouses, new monitoring systems are entering the market to meet the needs of hemp farmers.

Hemp farming is fast becoming a popular industry due to its wide range of therapeutic and manufacturing uses. Many systems already exist for monitoring indoor hemp cultivation facilities, such as Urban-Gro and Braingrid, bringing novel, Internet of Things solutions into the hemp space.

Now that hemp is a fully legal agricultural commodity, more farmers are choosing to grow hemp outdoors. Within the CBD oil extraction industry, hemp is often found growing in a greenhouse. Both options are rising in popularity for hemp, meaning that monitoring systems for use in these environments are necessary.

Learn the requirements for effective monitoring systems, and take a look at some of the key players within the hemp cultivation industry.


A remote monitoring system is designed to safeguard against prolonged environmental conditions that could damage or destroy an entire crop. A remote monitoring system must be able to:

  • Track near real-time changes in ecological conditions.
  • Communicate alerts to the user independent of the Internet or an Ethernet cable (e.g., enabled via a secondary cellular network for redundancy)
  • Continue to operate in the event of a power outage (must have a battery backup system)

Depending upon the size of the operation, a monitoring system able to analyze different zones within the crop may be desired. If hemp is being grown in a greenhouse, choose a monitoring system that can also be connected to any HVAC or lighting equipment to monitor performance, and check for failures.


Monitoring systems are a core component of any automation system, as data must first be collected before an equipment or environmental decision can be made. Moving toward automation of the growing environment can accomplish the following:

Reduce the cost of labor

Automating essential tasks allows for less personnel, or grants staff to devote more of their time to other areas of interest, such as R&D or marketing efforts.

Increases yield and product quality

Measuring environmental conditions within a grow operation allows the farmer to improve their methods based on analyzed data and trends. This optimization often results in improved outcomes as related to quantity. Recipes for specific types of hemp can be created, ensuring repeatability in product quality.

Eliminate guesswork

Through analyzing cultivation data, the grower can make informed operational decisions. Changes in farming practices will only be based on evidence, rather than speculation. Sugarmade AI Cultivation Monitoring System

In May of this year, Sugarmade announced a new initiative to develop a simple, AI-based technology to monitor the cultivation of outdoor hemp. Sensors will be placed at appropriate locations throughout a hemp field and will gather data such as temperature, relative humidity, and soil moisture.

This monitoring system will be based on narrowband IoT technology, which is a type of cellular communications network. Advantages of this technology include a wider coverage area than other mobile networks and long battery life.

Sugarmade has not yet made public a timeline for the development of this technology.


Another cellular-based system, the Sensaphone remote monitoring devices are specifically designed for use in a greenhouse environment. Sensors are placed throughout the greenhouse, and temperature, ventilation, CO2, and relative humidity data is collected. The user can set threshold limits for each parameter and is notified via a call or text if any variable falls outside the threshold limits.

Alerts are also received in the event of a power outage or equipment failure. Data is backed up on the cloud for redundancy, and the device is equipped with an internal rechargeable battery for redundancy in the case of a power outage.


In addition to offering an automatic dosing system to ensure consistent fertigation, Link4 has also created a class of crop monitoring systems designed for greenhouse growing. These systems control as well as monitor, and can manage up to 24 HVAC and lighting devices.


A form of outdoor growing, protected cropping allows plants to grow in a fully outdoor environment but with the added benefit of minimal structures offering protection from the elements. Examples of such enclosures would be hoop houses, tunnel houses, and canopy protection.

Autogrow’s system allows the hemp farmer to monitor and control variables such as irrigation, fertigation, run-off, and root zone. The user receives an alert in the event of a problem and can manage the system remotely from their smart device.

This articles was originally written and published by Amanda Luketa of Cannabis Tech

After Centuries, Hemp Makes A Comeback At George Washington’s Home

For the first time in what historians say could be centuries, hemp has been grown and harvested at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s historic estate.

In the 1760s, Washington predicted that hemp could be a more profitable crop than tobacco and grew it across his farm. At the time, hemp was abundant in Virginia and elsewhere in the U.S.

This summer, horticulturalists at Mount Vernon partnered with the University of Virginia and planted hemp once again. “To bring this crop back it just really helps complete our agricultural story,” says Dean Norton, the director of horticulture at the estate.

The push to bring back hemp came from a Charlottesville, Va., farmer, Brian Walden, who considers himself a “hemp patriot.”

Dean Norton, the director of horticulture at Mount Vernon, stands in front of the plot of hemp grown this year.

Claire Harbage/NPR


He hoped planting the crop at Washington’s home again could give hemp a public image makeover.

“And [get] the message across that this is an innocuous plant that has real benefits and our Founding Fathers knew that and they planted it.”

But convincing the deciders at Mount Vernon wasn’t easy. “It’s been two generations that we last grew hemp. That means it’s lost from the general population’s knowledge or memory,” Walden says. It took months for him to make the case.

Hemp is still considered a controlled substance by the federal government, but Mount Vernon is able to grow industrial hemp because of a provision included in the federal Farm Bill passed in 2014. It allows states to harvest the crop in limited supply for research purposes only. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 38 states considered industrial hemp legislation in 2018.

To be clear, the hemp harvested at Mount Vernon is not the type of cannabis you smoke like its cousin — marijuana. Rather, it’s used to make rope, cloth and a host of other products.

Deborah Colburn, a historic trade interpreter at Mount Vernon, demonstrates the process of turning dried hemp into a pliable fiber for making cloth.
Claire Harbage/NPR

Hemp historians say the plant was not just a widely grown crop in Colonial America, but that farmers were mandated to grow it by the British crown because of its versatility and the exceptionally strong fibers could be used for making sails, repairing fishing nets and clothing slaves.

A crackdown on the plant began in the 1930s, when the federal government took steps to tighten control on cannabis, through a Marihuana Tax Act. In 1970 all cannabis plants were lumped together, regardless of THC levels. And ever since, hemp has been a Schedule I drug, just like heroin, LSD and ecstasy.

Hemp historians say that the exceptionally strong fibers could be used for making sails, repairing fishing nets and clothing slaves.
Claire Harbage/NPR

Hemp and marijuana do have similar aromas, but the level of tetrahydrocannabinol – or THC – the chemical that induces the intoxicating high, is minuscule in hemp.

That does not keep Dean Norton, the horticulturalist, from lighting up with excitement when talking about the plant. He gets a kick out of the tourists who stop and take pictures next the seven-foot-tall stalks.

“This is totally for interpretive value,” Norton says. “We could light a bonfire, sit around and nothing is going to happen to you.”

Congress could soon legalize hemp

The Farm Bill is up for renewal this year, and there is chance industrial hemp could become a legal crop. This could be a boon to farmers, like Brian Walden, who predict American hemp production could be a billion-dollar industry.

Brian Walden hoped by having hemp planted at Washington’s historic home, the crop could get a very public image makeover.
Claire Harbage/NPR

According to a June report by the Congressional Research Service, “the global market for hemp consists of more than 25,000 products in nine submarkets.” Hemp fibers can be made into yarns, paper, construction materials even parts for automobiles. Hemp oil can be used in lotions and cosmetics.

Walden says that because industrial hemp is not something a lot of American farmers grow, it is also not a commodity caught in escalating trade war, like soybeans and beef.

Mount Vernon is able to grow industrial hemp because of provision included in the federal Farm Bill passed in 2014. It allows states to harvest the crop in limited supply for research purposes only.
Claire Harbage/NPR

“It is something can boost their farming in a time when tariffs are inhibiting that,” says Walden who is also a member of the Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition.

John Hudak is a senior fellow at the Washington D.C.-based Brookings Institution and author of Marijuana: A Short History. He says there is a real opportunity to legalize industrial hemp because politicians are changing attitudes towards the plant.

“I think where we’re at right now, is a situation in which, finally a lot of members of Congress … have finally stopped buying drug war-era rhetoric, stopped thinking about the cannabis plant in a very uniform way,” Hudak says.

That includes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has been pushing for industrial hemp’s legalization since April.

“I don’t think it’s a slam dunk, but I do think there’s a real opportunity for passage,” says Hudak.

The Farm Bill is up for renewal this year, and there is chance industrial hemp could become a legal crop.
Claire Harbage/NPR


This article was originally published August 23, 2018 by Brakkton Booker of National Public Radio (NPR)