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Bud Trimming Machines: 4 Benefits to Choosing Automation

By Jeff Hale | Last updated: August 18, 2021
Presented by GreenBroz Inc.
Key Takeaways

One of the first technologies an expanding cultivation business should explore when taking the step up to the next level in terms of production is post-harvest automation.

Competing on a larger scale means taking some efficiency cues from modern manufacturing operations and carefully blending them into the craft and art that goes into producing a unique plant like cannabis. While it may be true that the highest quality flower destined for the top shelf of dispensaries across North America often demands the care and attention provided by a hand-finish trim, more cultivators are learning how today’s automated bud trimming machines can help shift time and resources to areas of your operation that drive more revenue.

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Best Practices for Trimming Cannabis Buds

Trimming cannabis buds for retail or further processing is about more than appearances. For starters, pruning the leaves from a plant helps ensure the final product remains free of mold as well as undesirable plant material that’s low in active compounds such as THC. But trimming cannabis also exposes the highly desirable aromatic terpenes that are responsible for the plant’s unique smell, flavor, and effect. For the consumer, trimming cannabis buds ensures a more enjoyable smoking experience as these outer leaves are known to be harsh when smoked.

Some cultivators prefer to prune cannabis immediately after the harvest (wet trimming) while others wait for their buds to dry out (dry trimming). The wet versus dry debate has had its merits in the past, however, advances in automated technology have given the dry bud cannabis trimmer the lead thanks to consistency in the weight of the final product as well as the ability to trim incredibly gently while processing up to 16 pounds per hour.

Best Hand-Trimming Tools of the Trade

  • Curved trimming scissors
  • Latex gloves
  • Collection tray
  • Airtight storage jar
  1. Regardless of your preference for trimming wet or dry buds, each process starts with cutting branches into manageable sizes. If you’re trimming wet, make sure not to lay your cut branches down on a hard surface or else the buds may begin to flatten and lose their desirable shape and active compounds.
  2. Remove the large fan leaves. These are the large green leaves most recognizable as marijuana.
    • If you’re dry trimming, this is the stage when you'll hang prepared branches to dry for one to seven days depending on your level of humidity.
  3. Remove the sugar leaves which are the smaller leaves sticking out of the buds. Even though you may see a wealth of trichomes, leaving these leaves intact will result in a harsher and less enjoyable smoking experience. You can also save your trichome-rich trimmings for use in other goods down the production line.


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Trimmer hand trimming cannabis

Manual Vs. Automated Bud Trimming

For decades, seasonal workers arrived in droves each fall for the laborious job of manual trimming the nation’s cannabis crop in preparation for sale. This vital process is incredibly time-consuming and difficult to repeat with a largely different group of workers available each season. While the best-trained hand trimmers can effectively bring the most out of a high-quality cannabis flower in terms of shelf appeal, automated bud trimming has gained considerable ground over the years.

In an eight-hour shift, manual trimmers will typically produce one to three pounds of retail-ready cannabis. Your new crew members can likely move through one pound per day while you’re most experienced hands produce upwards of three pounds per day.

Consistency in output between individual trimmers and seasonal groups can vary significantly, leading to a different experience for customers each time they purchase something from your brand.

The old hand-crank bud trimming machines earned a reputation for being very rough on cannabis buds, so many craft legacy growers hesitated to modernize their operations. However, over the last decade advances in equipment have made it possible to closely mimic the act of hand-trimming while maintaining the natural curves and integrity of a cannabis bud. These machines work hard, processing up to 16 pounds of cannabis in one hour and making them lightyears ahead of any human hand in terms of operational speed. But for some craft or boutique cannabis brands, the best of both worlds is attainable. Many cultivators run a hybrid-trimming operation where the vast majority of product is trimmed by machine while the standout buds from a particularly potent or desirable strain are given a hand-finish to be sold in 1/8th quantities for the highest price possible.

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4 Benefits of Investing in a Bud Trimming Machine

The best trimmer does more than just speed up the process — it helps cultivators produce a reliably consistent product that meets customer expectations. More importantly, the lower overhead costs over the long run and time saved can free growers to focus their energy and attention on higher value activities that directly impact their profit margins and brand.

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1. Consistency

Surgical-grade stainless steel and machine-like precision preserve the character, shape, and potency of your trimmed cannabis buds.

This helps ensure that cultivators can package and sell the highest quality products over time, which is the only way to build long-term consumer loyalty.

2. Overhead Cost

Many large-scale operations will recoup the initial dry bud trimmer equipment cost in days and weeks, not months or years. The benefits grow year after year when you’re no longer training new trimmers or adjusting your labor costs to keep up with the competition. The other lesser-addressed portion of cost is time. In manual trimming, the product degrades as it’s exposed to light, air, and numerous human hands for hours during a trimming session, as opposed to minutes when run through machinery. The less time your flower spends in processing, the higher the quality becomes on the retail shelf.

3. Efficiency

An unskilled trimmer is expected to process one pound of cannabis in an eight-hour day and a highly-seasoned professional will yield three pounds and may also be willing to work for much more than one shift during peak harvest season. Both of these rates pale in comparison to a modern automated bud trimming machine that can produce up to 16 pounds every hour to the cultivators’ exact expectations. Efficiency is most certainly the biggest reason so many commercial cannabis operations have moved the vast majority of their trimming work to machinery as it’s become incredibly difficult to compete against the brands running machines.

4. Security

Minimizing the number of individuals on a cannabis farm or marijuana processing plant is one of the best ways to maintain a high level of security. While the often poor reputation of seasonal workers in the cannabis industry may not be completely fair, most cultivators who’ve been growing for many seasons do seem to have a story of a manual trimmer negatively impacting the business.

Keeping your product safe also falls into this category with automated machinery doing a much better job protecting your products from pathogens when compared to many human hands.

Conclusion

Often, the right purpose-built machine can improve quality, productivity, and safety at your facility.

If you are considering automating part of your operation or have questions about post-harvest solutions, the team at GreenBroz can help.


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GreenBroz, Inc. provides industry-leading automated harvesting systems to the legal cannabis industry. Committed to high-caliber engineering, reliability, exceptional quality, and customer service, GreenBroz is dedicated to helping companies thrive.

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Presented By

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Written by Jeff Hale | GreenBroz Contributor

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Jeff Hale is a writer and editor based in San Diego with a background in business development and marketing. He has identified new market opportunities for Fortune 500 companies and developed communications strategies and digital branding for tech startups and small businesses with a long track record of success in the cannabis industry.

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