Hand Trim Vs. Automation

One of the US largest outdoor medical cannabis grows automated its harvest and greatly reduced labor costs.

The cannabis industry is rapidly growing, and with this growth comes the need for efficient and cost-effective harvest methods. One of the biggest decisions faced by cannabis cultivators is whether to hand-trim or automate their harvest. In a recent Cannabis Business Times article, a vertically-integrated cannabis operation shared their experience of switching from hand-trimming to full automation as their production grew.

According to the post, the cannabis operation had grown too large to even consider hand-harvesting all their flower. The process of hand-harvesting involves cutting the flower from the plant by hand, which can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. The company found that as their operation grew, it became increasingly difficult to bring in enough seasonal workers to keep up with the demand.

To address this issue, the cannabis operation decided to invest in automation. Besides already having automated trimming process, they chose to automate also the process of bucking, which involves removing usable biomass from the stalk. Bucking is an essential part of the harvest process and can be time-consuming when done by hand. By automating this process, the company expected to see significant savings in labor costs.

The decision to automate was not made lightly. The company compared the cost of hiring seasonal workers to the cost of investing in automated equipment. After careful consideration, they concluded that automation was the more cost-effective option in the long run. By investing in automated equipment, they would not only save on labor costs but also benefit from increased efficiency and productivity.

The cannabis operation expects that the move towards full automation will significantly streamline their harvest process. Instead of working around the clock, they plan to harvest batches once a week, which should be possible without seasonal employees. They predict that this automation will help reduce their overall cost of production and enable them to offer their products at a more competitive price.

The move towards automation in the cannabis industry is not unique to this operation. Many cultivators are turning to automation to increase efficiency and reduce labor costs. Automated equipment can perform tasks quickly and accurately, which can be challenging to achieve with manual labor. Additionally, automated equipment can work continuously, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without breaks or rest, which can significantly increase productivity.

Despite the benefits of automation, some cultivators still prefer to hand-trim their harvest, especially if the flower is the end product that sells to dispensaries. Hand-trimming is a craft that requires skill and attention to detail. Careful hand-trimmed flower often has a better appearance than machine-trimmed flower, which can be important in the retail market. Additionally, hand-trimming, if done by skilled staff, can be more gentle on the flower, preserving its terpenes and cannabinoids, which can result in a higher quality product.

Therefore, one might get some special treatment on the plants, which are destined for dried flower sales. On the selected plants take the top colas by hand cutting, run them through the trimming machine and after the dry and cure phase touch up the buds with hand trimming, if necessary. 

In conclusion, the decision to hand-trim or automate a harvest is a complex one that depends on various factors, such as the size of the operation, the availability of labor, and the desired quality of the end product. For some cultivators, automation may be the best option for increasing efficiency and reducing labor costs. For others, hand-trimming may be the preferred method for achieving a higher quality product. As the cannabis industry continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how cultivators adapt and innovate to meet the demands of the market.


Anej Stibilj

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