With seven more U.S. states voting to legalize forms of medical or recreational marijuana use on November 8, the upcoming rollout of Leaf’s “plug-n-plant” system for growing the crop at home couldn’t have been better timed.
“It’s an exciting time to launch,” CEO Jonathan Ofir tells ISRAEL21c. “We’re seeing a very interesting trend even among traditionally conservative states, and it could be the beginning of the end of the federal ban on cannabis. From an industry perspective, this makes our product even more appealing to entrepreneurs and investors.”
Leaf looks like a small refrigerator (2 feet by 4 feet), but it’s actually a sophisticated automatic cannabis-cultivation system.
“On average you will yield 4 ounces of high-quality, pesticide-free medicine every three months,” says Ofir. “Our beta testers have grown almost double that in certain cases.”
You don’t need pots, soil, or even a green thumb. Water, light, acidity, temperature, humidity, and nutrients all are monitored by sensors and controlled by a smartphone app. The system dries the leaves at the end of the grow cycle so they’re fully ready for consumption.
An embedded HD camera provides a live stream of images during the process for users to share via the app, which also offers explanatory video clips.
“Initially we will be shipping to the USA and Canada,” says Ofir. “We are currently working on international distribution partnerships to be able to ship worldwide.”
Leaf will realize additional revenues from renewables: carbon filters to keep odors from escaping the unit and disposable nutrient pods. The pods fit into the machine like ink cartridges in a printer.
Ofir was born to Israeli parents in California, where marijuana was legalized for medical use in 1996 and is now approved for recreational use as well. The family moved back to Israel in 2000, when he was 11.
His previous startup, Alcohoot, invented a smartphone breathalyzer and was sold to an American company a couple of years ago. That freed up Ofir to work on another project.
“I had a [medical marijuana] growing license and I realized there were a lot of things I could automate about the process, so I started building the Leaf prototype for myself,” he relates. “Many people were interested in it and we recognized a market opportunity. That’s how we started and it’s taken off from there.”
Leaf has about 20 employees, including five horticulturalists conducting growth and nutrient testing at the company headquarters outside Boulder, Colorado, where growing cannabis is legal. “We plan to expand that office tremendously as we start sales and customer service,” says Ofir.
All research and development activities are based in Tel Aviv. Ofir says this is where he and Mordechay found all the agricultural, engineering, industrial design, and medical research resources they needed. Israel is renowned as a pioneer in advanced cannabis research.
The embedded video below explains the system.