Cannabis sales in Canada have climbed steadily throughout 2020, to reach record highs of over $230 million. The surge has been driven by a rise in retail stores improving product accessibility, combined with edibles, extracts, and topicals enticing untapped audiences. The new product formats were predicted to attract over three million new consumers, which could help Canada’s recreational industry finally realize its true potential.
With an annual market value of $2.7 billion, the new product categories present lucrative opportunities for the nation’s producers. To benefit from an expanded portfolio, growers need to scale harvests to meet unprecedented demand without sacrificing quality. To do this cost-effectively requires producers to analyze operations from top to bottom, identifying which processes can be streamlined and deploying solutions that safeguard standards.
Automation can enhance the quantity of cannabis produced, but when adopted strategically can also enhance the quality. When streamlining operations growers should look for the early big wins, automating the most labour-intensive and expensive tasks first. For many this is the crucial, but tedious, harvesting process, which can make or break the value of the crop.
De-stemming hundreds of pounds of cannabis can be a momentous and monotonous task, which can take many weeks if done manually. Every time there is contact with flower, there is a risk of trichrome degradation that diminishes the value of the crop. As a result, many rely on bucking machines to carefully remove buds from plants quickly. Leading harvesting solutions ensure that large flowers and top colas are kept intact, with little to no damage to trichome structure.
To enhance the appearance, quality and value of cannabis, growers of all sizes are also increasingly investing in automated trimming machines. While hand-trimming flowers is often romanticized, it is rarely practical in a commercial environment. On average, a micro-cultivator will yield 174 lbs of flower in a 2,000 sq. ft. grow room, which would typically take 25 employees seven days to trim. With an experienced trimming crew charging $200 per lb, a single harvest could cost $34,800. This illustrates how inefficient and expensive hand trimming cannabis can be for even the smallest operation. By contrast, a top-of-the-line machine will trim 174l bs in under five hours-for a one-off investment of significantly less.
Hiring a trimming crew can be problematic as well as expensive. Employees require motivation to provide top-quality product constantly, with the entire cultivation process reliant on their actions and availability. Pinning hopes on individuals for such a pivotal process can leave companies vulnerable to unforeseen circumstances, such as the lockdowns enacted to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Consistency is King
Due to industry pressures, it is essential cultivators can guarantee their harvesting capacity, which can be difficult to do with a manual workforce. Trimming delays can cause costly bottlenecks and downtime, which prevents producers from filling delivery windows. This is especially true in today’s market, with growers often required to achieve perpetual harvests to satisfy demand.
The best trimming machines are as versatile as a human trimmer, but capable of infinitely greater efficiency and uniformity. With the ability to trim wet or dry cannabis to replicate hand-trimmed flower, adjustable machines produce the same cut every time. In contrast, hand-trimmed product can vary person-to-person and batch-to-batch. The consistency provided by trimming machines enables growers to maintain standards as they scale to meet unprecedented demand.
Adopting automated solutions for automation’s sake, without first identifying how they improve operations, will result in expenses that fail to enhance your grow. However, strategically identifying where costs can be saved and implementing specialist solutions improves both quantity and quality. This enables growers to attract new cannabis audiences now, with the capacity and consistency to satisfy and retain these customers in the future.