Abrar Chowdhury, the CEO of Embryo Labs, was first inspired to create the cannabis SmartGrinder while attempting to secure funding for the University of Windsor’s FIRST Robotics Club.
“In order to get funding for our robotics club, we had to impress our dean,” Abrar recalls. “So, we made this automated alcohol mixer. Basically, if you poured in vodka or a certain syrup, it would disperse the liquids, shake the cup and then mix it out to you.”
Abrar’s alcohol cup got his club the funding it needed. But perhaps more importantly, it planted the seed of an idea in Abrar.
“I started toying around with the idea of a cannabis project,” Abrar explains. “I have a lot of friends who work with Aphria and Audacia Bioscience, which does a lot of research with cannabis and its medical implications. And I knew a lot of cannabis startups were popping up in Michigan. So, I got to work.”
While developing his next project, Abrar examined the traditional cannabis paraphernalia on the market.
“The cannabis industry is kind of in a bubble,” Abrar admits. “And any company that enters this bubble attempts to take the conventional route by being a cannabis processing company, which ends up making the industry too homogenous. I wanted to target very specific niche markets, as opposed to looking at traditional cannabis products sold at dispensaries. So, the first thing we looked at was grinders.”
The SmartGrinder revolutionizes typical cannabis grinder technology, utilizing a push-pop tray system for storage and cleaning. The SmartGrinder is equipped with an automatic grinder, which allows for easier use than your typical hand grinders.
“All the grinders that are out there right now were made in the pre-legalization era,” Abrar states. “They’re not really built to last. I wanted to make a product that belonged in your kitchen. Almost an appliance!”
When it came time to produce his new product, Abrar turned to another local company
“We discovered a local company called Aviot Industries that started working on product development around the same time as us,” Abrar explains. “They’ve made a lot of cool stuff. Including a lightweight lawnmower that took home a top ten spot at the 2019 Jacobs StartUP Pitch Competition in Germany. We thought they’d be a perfect fit for us.”
Abrar credits WEtech Alliance and the University of Windsor’s EPICentre for helping him see this project through to the end.
“We worked with the SmartGrinder and Embryo Labs when the SmartGrinder was still an idea to be refined.“ WEtech Director of Venture Services Adam Castle explains. “We encouraged them to build their intellectual property (IP) strategy from the ground up, along with their product. What we’re seeing in the trend lines across Canada is that IP is more and more valuable when it comes to finding investors and leveraging those soft assets for operational capital.”
The SmartGrinder will be launching this November after pre-sale, with limited units available.
“We want to try and validate the product itself,” Abrar states. “Before we get our Seed or Series A funding, we need to prove that there’s a strong market. Come November, once the prototyping phase is done, we will be giving the green light to our manufacturing partner to put production into place. Once we’ve done that, we are looking to expand our market and tap into the strong Cannabis Culture found all over the globe.”
“Creating hardware products is a long and challenging road.”, states Castle. “Every step along the way during product development and commercialization is a crucial one, taking the time to understand your market, your customers, and learning from every decision made is what builds up a strong foundation for the next level.”
Michael Seguin was born with a pen in his hands and too many words floating around his skull. Since then, he’s worked tirelessly to get them out. Unfortunately, more keep taking their place. After university, he began dabbling in marketing and journalism. At the age of 26, he became the first in-house writer at Windsor Life Magazine, an esteemed local publication. As the newest member of the WEtech Alliance team, Michael is dedicated to lending a voice to the tech sector around Windsor and Chatham-Kent
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