Learning to Grow Virtual Weed Is As Easy As Downloading an App

This information was provided by Danielle Guercio

For older millennials, vivid memories of sneaking in Tamagotchi feedings during class without getting caught illustrates some of the first virtual bonds between consumer and life simulator interface. Showing responsibility for a intangible creature was something slightly addictive, engaging our caretaker instincts and melding them with the urge to press buttons and binge a video game. Now this simulator model applies to many living things, and cannabis is the latest to get a dedicated interface. Who knew that the Tamagotchi generation would be sweeping out cannabis prohibition and using every single piece of technology and innovation at their fingertips to perfect the growth process?

Real-life growing can be daunting to novices, and short of putting a seed in the ground and saying a prayer, even many bare-bones ops are simply too complex for laypersons. As genetics and standardization of techniques improve, it could become effortless to grow your own cannabis, but as it stands now it requires an initial investment of time, money and knowhow that not many can spare when good product can be purchased at the store down the road or even delivered in minutes.

The tech industry is the truly new field where plants are concerned, and developing needed support for the cannabis industry has to evolve past only the point of sale. One company, simLeaf, is combining the accessible tech of a phone app with the real-life experience of cultivators for potentially groundbreaking results in the educational and developmental phases of cannabis growing.

We played with the simLeaf app for just a single evening, and though it’s hard to garner real knowledge from just 24 hours looking at any subject, its clear to see how this could be a platform for learning that makes grow tech leave books and message boards and enter the hands of the common people. Not everyone can invest hundreds in print materials, thousands on classes, and tens of thousands on test crops and their supplies but most people can spare $2.99 for a program that has a game like quality.

This is more powerful than it sounds on its surface. If people can learn practical techniques without monetary and equipment investment, it could break down many of the traditional barriers that prevent people from transitioning into the cannabis industry and its subsequent boom of profits. Plus, the app itself is fun. At first glance, it seemed like a simple concept, but this interface covers everything from air quality to nutrients and light positioning. It’s bringing a three-dimensional and 360-degree view to something that typically carries much more mystery.

Picking a plant is pretty straightforward, but like everything in the world, it might cost you, as the add-ons aren’t free in this app. It’s cool that the starter trees are free, and obvious that this product needs to have in-app purchases to support its existence, but the value doesn’t necessarily correlate on every charge. Prying an extra dollar from the user to grow a plant faster when you lose all of the data gained in a turtle or rabbit speed phase seems like a waste of money even if you gain the time. Paying for more knowledge is fine, but losing the valuable feedback from the other growth times isn’t worth 99 cents.

Other than that, the app itself provides a first-hand growing experience that coaches users through the entire life of the plant, from seedling to harvest. There are indicas, sativas and hybrids, and then the potential to make your own hybrids as you collect mother plants. It even simulates curing as you “harvest.” One of the most satisfying parts is the tally after growing, where you get a breakdown of everything from the weight produced to the THC and cannabinoid readings. This feels like a certificate of performance, and after investing a few weeks in a normal speed grow sim, you will receive a rewarding little plaque that you can throw up on your social media if you feel so inclined.

At first., it seems like this isn’t the most clear and striking animation, but the second you pinch and zoom on your baby and see all of that sugary detail on the plants, it’s mesmerizing. During a rocket speed grow, you’re treated to a full-blown animated show of the unfurling of gram after gram of gorgeous flower. The zoom-and-pinch feature allows you to move up and down the plant, around and deep into the leaves to see what’s happening up close.

These details are more than for show. They essentially allow you to spot when the leaves are yellow, dry or otherwise undernourished, and that is the mechanism that allows you to learn as you treat the plant with light, water and nutrients over its existence. Growing in person requires a specific amount of knowledge that definitely could be improved by spending time on the app. Before parting with the money to try the real thing, having a bit of visual reference is more helpful than it sounds. If you’ve barely ever seen plants in the ground, getting your eyes on simLeaf could really help you out.

The app itself has reminders to let you know when it’s time to get the vitals on your plant. It’s really checking everything from humidity to temperature and not really letting you slip up with little badges and pings. This is much more forgiving than doing things for real, which is such a video game concept that it barely registers anymore. Jumping from a high cliff and failing? That’s only something you can do in the virtual world, which now extends to roasting and soaking your precarious plants, not smart to try for yourself.

This seems like novelty, but testing plant hardiness could be an important tool when developing new cultivars, brand standards or even educational briefs for large operations. Why put the resources into the physical world when you can test your concepts with no consequences in the virtual realm while watching Netflix?

Emerald contributor since July 2019


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