cannabis hyperspectral near-infrared imaging courtesy of Pixabay

Can Hyperspectral Near-Infrared Imaging Help Cannabis Growers?

When it comes to cultivating cannabis, many people are under the false impression that it is an easy thing to do.

“Cannabis grows like a weed!” you will hear many people exclaim. However, that is not actually the case.

Certainly, if you want to simply cultivate a cannabis plant from start to finish with no regard to how the plant turns out, and just want to keep it alive, then yes, it “grows like a weed” and the chances of success via that standard is pretty easy.

If you want to cultivate cannabis to a level that makes the end product desirable to consume, then it takes a lot of knowledge, experience, and hard work.

Cultivating a cannabis plant so it reaches the peak of its potential is far from easy. It’s a craft that very few people have truly mastered.

More and more cultivators are incorporating science and technology into their cultivation methods, which is creating more objective measurements and protocols.

That, in turn, will likely make cultivating cannabis easier for less-experienced growers.

Near-Infrared Hyperspectral Reflectance Imaging

A vast majority of cannabis cultivators rely on their naked eyes to determine if a cannabis plant is growing properly.

That same rudimentary method is used to determine when a plant is experiencing nutrient deficiencies, when it is ready to be transplanted, and when it is time to harvest the plant.

The process of assessing a cannabis plant in that manner is not easy to do and can often lead to a misdiagnosis.

A scientific method known as hyperspectral near-infrared imaging could help simplify the process, or at least make it more objective.

Spectral imaging is the “integration of spectroscopy and digital imaging, obtaining the spectral and spatial information of the object simultaneously.”

In layman’s terms, scientists can take a lot of different pictures of a plant, including the cannabis plant, to scientifically assess the growth rate of the plant, the overall health of the plant, and many other variables.

New Zealand Study

A team of researchers in New Zealand recently explored whether hyperspectral near-infrared imaging could help increase yields among cannabis plants.

The concept is fairly straightforward – can the use of hyperspectral near-infrared imaging measure the growth cycle of a plant better than the naked eye?

Researchers essentially concluded that yes, using imaging and spectroscopy is a better way to measure the growth of a cannabis plant. 

With that being said, they also stated that more research is needed and that prior to their study, “no data or reports can be found in the literature on the use of hyperspectral sensing to monitor and evaluate Cannabis sativa plants.”

This scientific method was already in use for the purpose of detecting cannabis plants growing among other crops, so it’s well-established that the technology can be used to identify cannabis plants.

The real trick will be in determining not just how to monitor the plants using hyperspectral near-infrared imaging, but also what to look for in order to know if the cannabis plant needs more of ‘X’ and/or less of ‘Y’.


  • Johnny Green is the Media and Content Director for the International Cannabis Business Conference and has blogged about cannabis since January 2010.

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