The Power of Automation for Harvesting Cannabis: Cultivate Podcast Ep. 10
In May 2018, while attending Lift Expo in Toronto, we sat down to record Episode 10 of Boveda’s “Cultivate” Podcast, hosted by Drew Emmer, and Scott Swail.
In this episode, we bring you an authentic conversation about the industry—covering the benefits of automation and how it increases efficiencies when scaling up in this fast-paced environment as well the importance of maintaining proper flower moisture content that is ideal for harvest, sale, and consumption.
ANNOUNCING: TWISTER AND BOVEDA INDUSTRY PARTNERSHIP
Twister and Boveda’s partnership was organically cultivated over an alignment on moisture content, a passion for the industry and education being a core pillar of our business.
Interested in learning more about Boveda? Check out the links below.
Drew: You’re listening to cultivate, a podcast about the people and technology that are blazing a trail in the cannabis industry. Today we’ve got a special guest Matty from Twister. Welcome.
00:42 Scott: Can you give us a little snippet of what Twister is?
00:44 Matty: Twister. Yeah, we’re harvesting experts in the cannabis space. We’ve been around for 12 years, or over that now. Basically, we’re an ancillary product to the industry. We design, manufacture and distribute the world’s leading harvesting equipment. So that’s primarily trimmers.
01:03 Drew: Our companies are having a serious romance, we are really fond of Twister. Awesome people, first and foremost, and you have a philosophy about what you do that really works with what we’re about.
01:19 Matty: Yeah. You know, our core purpose is helping people grow, right? So that’s our customers, and our people internally, and our partnerships. So any way that we can help Boveda grow is something that really ties to our values.
01:35 Drew: So you talk about harvesting equipment; for people that are not in the cannabis business, what does harvesting equipment mean?
01:43 Matty: The cannabis plant has to be trimmed before it’s shelf ready. So our equipment is the automation that allows people to scale their grow, and harvest in a timely manner. So, taking down that product, and especially when you’re… While we’re up here in Canada, all these million square feet greenhouses. It’s not economically possible… Physically possible to trim cannabis by hand.
02:10 Scott: Yeah, how many different size trimmers do you have? Do you have a wide range for people maybe that grow at home, versus someone that has a big facility?
02:19 Matty: Yeah, for sure. So over the course of 12 years, we’ve developed three different size trimmers. We started with that bigger one at the time, it’s called the T2. Then we learned everything we… Learned everything from that product, and we put that into something that’s more compact. It’s the T4, which is our medium size machine now. And then we wanted to address that market for everyone, so that they could grow at home, and have a feasible way to trim as well, if you’re a 65 year old lady, or you’re a 20 year old guy that has six plants in their basement. Then it allows them to trim, and they don’t have to lean on other people to help them out. The exciting news that I’d love to share with you guys today is that, we actually are just launching, and we built our very first Tzero. Which now will do over 100 pounds an hour. And it is truly a commercial machine. There’s nothing like it on the market.
03:18 Scott: That’s awesome.
03:19 Drew: And the tagline is 100… I mean everybody’s been trying to get to that 100 pounds an hour.
03:24 Matty: That’s definitely the threshold. Yeah, so…
03:26 Drew: And you’re doing it.
03:28 Matty: Yeah, we did it, yeah.
03:29 Drew: Phenomenal.
03:29 Matty: Yeah, we…
03:30 Drew: Congratulations.
03:31 Matty: Yeah, thank you. Thank you. It’s exciting times.
03:33 Drew: So let’s talk about water. Because you guys are picky through the experience of all your growers, and the best practices that you’ve developed. Let’s just talk about water. Water’s a big deal to us. Talk about the role of water in the harvesting trimming process, and why it’s important?
03:52 Matty: Yeah, so if we’re alluding to more the moisture content, right? So to back track, we do have machines that trim wet or trim dry, right? So, this is a personal preference for the grower. We have the ability to service both ends of the market. So if we were gonna look at trimming wet, it’s pretty self explanatory. You basically buck the plants… De-stem the plants, and then you put it through our machine fresh. So, on the opposite side, there is the process of trimming dry, which is now becoming bigger and bigger and in higher demand. It’s arguably a better way to cure the flower. And then have a better product at the end. And at that point you want to trim at an optimal moisture content of 11%. We do recommend a range between 10 and 13. There is variable, depending on the strain of the plant, but 11 is our optimal…
04:53 Drew: For the equipment to work at its optimal…
04:56 Matty: Yeah, and you know what, also for actually the product itself. So we’ve designed a product, a trimmer, that caters to the optimal moisture content of shelf ready cannabis.
05:09 Drew: Very cool. And that’s right in line with what the Canadian government’s asking people to have as an optimal…
05:15 Matty: Yeah, I believe it’s around 10 or 11% yeah.
05:17 Scott: Yeah. So the cool thing is Boveda, the 58% holds a moisture content in flower at right about 11%. So I mean it’s dead on perfect. And I think that’s why this works so well.
05:30 Matty: Yeah. But you know what, if there was nothing better than aligning ourselves with a partnership with Boveda, because of not only the people, because that’s the first thing, foremost, you guys are amazing. Through thick and thin, like you know, from start to finish, every single person that we’ve met and aligned ourself with. But also the fact that you guys have a product that can optimize the moisture content of your dried cannabis at the 11% mark, which is 58% humidity, like you said, Scott. And yeah, it’s so complementary and it’s so integral in having a good end product for the shelf.
06:08 Drew: So here’s what always has blown me away. People spend all this time and energy; blood, sweat, and tears growing these beautiful plants. And they’re watching the plant veg out. I mean, they go through all these stages, and it’s emotional. People are emotionally attached to growing this flower. And they cut it down. And the moment they cut it down… It’s not necessarily like there’s a plan for how it’s gonna be managed all the way to market. It’s like the part they were focused on was before they cut it down. So now, post-harvest is where we come in, and where we’ve been really edified in the last couple years watching people develop processes and come up with best practices for how to take care of bringing the consumer… ‘Cause everybody used to say “Seed-to-sale, seed-to-sale, seed-to-sale.” And now people seem to be saying, “Seed to satisfaction.” And I know you guys are dedicated to really bringing a level of quality and a level of… Well, like you say with your motto, “We help people… “
07:10 Matty: Grow.
07:11 Drew: “Grow,” and harvest, and deliver on a promise of what their brand means. So a pretty amazing evolution in the business.
07:20 Matty: Yeah, that’s exactly right, Drew. It’s all about helping people grow, like we’ve said. But it’s about that education. That’s what we stand for. We stand for that internally, we stand for that with our customer, we stand for that with our partnerships. And educating everyone on the proper processes to deliver a quality, high-end product is key. And that’s what we’re looking to do. I know that, just to your point, people focus on growing the plant all the way along, and they forget about that post-harvest, which is integral to the process. And there’s other trimmers, for instance, on the market that you put it in and you set it and forget it. And it really does not make sense, walking away from something that you’ve taken eight weeks to really grow passionately. It’s all about being hands-on and really watching about it get trimmed and harvest and cured and dried properly.
08:17 Scott: Exactly. And, I mean, that matters for a lot of reasons. Just patient or customer end experience. When they consume the product, they keep going back and buying more of it from whoever the LP is, or the grower. And then also from a standpoint of weight. So when you you’re selling off weight, and if you just over-dry it and leave it at that, you’re losing money due to moisture evaporation.
08:42 Matty: Well, that’s such a good comment, Scott. Because some of these other trimmers on the market, the set-and-forget-it ones, the top-loaded ones, they don’t have any blades. So not only they’re tearing the product, but they also require you to dry it down to 8%. So if you were to look at that from an economic standpoint, and how much yield you’re actually losing by drawing it down, not only are you damaging the product and the trichomes and everything, but you’re also losing that weight, that yield. So yeah, that’s a great point.
09:12 Scott: And when you’re selling in pounds or kilos, it adds up. 100 pounds, and if you’re at 8% on all of that, that’s a lot of money that you’ve lost just from the water weight.
09:23 Matty: Yeah.
09:23 Scott: And not to mention the quality of the flower when you de-stream.
09:28 Matty: How much it degrades, and…
09:29 Scott: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.
09:30 Drew: So I wanna digress for a second, because one of the things that I love about going to cannabis conventions is that you get to meet a lot of different people. And over the course of doing a bunch of shows, we’ve met a bunch of staff from Twister and other great companies. And you have a reputation. And I wanna talk about your reputation for a second. You might get a little embarrassed, and this might get a little mushy, and I’m not gonna apologize for it, but I’d like you to be prepared.
09:55 Matty: I’m blushing. [laughter]
09:57 Drew: We took you away today… We’re putting this podcast together at Lifton, Toronto, and we took you away from a panel. You are the head of a company. You are on panels with the leaders of the Canada Cannabis Industry. You’re always at the center of that. Every time anybody ever says your name in conversation around our booth or around us at a show, there’s always a reaction about the quality of guy, the class act, the enthusiasm. You are convicted of being a massively enthusiastic human being. Would you deny that?
10:45 Matty: I’m humbled. I’m humbled. I’m lost for words right now, thank you.
10:48 Drew: The reason why I’m going down this rabbit trail is because the way… You’re helping people grow, is your motto. “We help people grow”. And you don’t say, “We help people grow cannabis.” You leave it open. You help people grow. There’s a bigger picture here. There’s something that you’re about and that you’re company’s about that really fits with what our company’s about, and what we’re about, and you hold people in high regards. You have high expectations of people, but you’re also just tremendously gracious with people, and in a era of… In our society where civility isn’t always the premium, there’s a lot of tension in the political world, and it’s tough; the public conversation. It is so refreshing to meet a personality like you. And to have the privilege of working, and we’ve talked about this before we did this, to have the privilege of working with you and your team is just really awesome for us and we are extremely grateful.
11:51 Matty: You know what, I wish I could say it so eloquently like you just said, Drew. But I guess that cliche saying of, “birds of a feather flock together”, we’re very gracious to be working with you guys as well and nothing but you know, class acts, second to none. So it’s a pleasure being here and being in your company.
12:12 Scott: How many times did we have to stop on the way here, for him to… For people to say hi to him?
12:17 Drew: We’re trying to leave. We should have left an hour early.
12:20 Scott: Walking through Toronto with Drake or Justin Bieber or something… [laughter]
12:23 Drew: Yeah, first of all, he has an entourage.
12:25 S?: It’s a good comparison.
12:26 Drew: He has handlers…
12:28 Scott: Like a mix of both. [laughter]
12:30 Drew: Yeah. But he’s Matty Christopherson that’s @matty_christopherson on Instagram. We encourage you to go there, very engaging and intriguing Instagram account. You can also go to @Bovedacannabis.
12:46 Matty: Don’t forget @twistertrimmer as well.
12:48 Drew: Was it… Oh, yes, the company?
12:50 Matty: Yeah. [laughter]
12:51 Drew: I forget, I’m sorry. [laughter]
12:54 Drew: So we’ve got quite the romance going between the companies and it makes perfect sense because you guys are delivering quality and the promise that people are… Their passion of putting out that outstanding flower product is going to be realized, and we’re all about keeping it fresh.
13:12 Matty: Yeah, and you know what, I have to throw in a story here because it just really resonates with me, I can’t get a better time. But we just recently re-shifted our focus and about really working with the grower, right? And working directly with them, educating them on the processes from post harvest including drying and curing. And I continually get stories. We have a lot of reps in the field across the US and Canada that allow us to do demos, so that people have that hands on ability to really feel their products and continually… I have some of our sales reps calling back and saying that they did their checks and balances in advance, they’ve called the grower two weeks out and informed them of the correct moisture content, provided them Boveda packages, so that they really hone in that exact moisture content when they’re trimming dry. And you know what, the reviews of that have been phenomenal. A feedback from the grower and from our internal reps. So yeah, it’s just so complementary and it just feels so good working with you guys, because the growers themselves are feeling it just as much as we are. So it’s a full one to one relationship that we have with one another, but also that one to one with the grower, and working together with those guys is awesome.
14:33 Drew: I wanna take another tack because we don’t really know, Matty, how you got here. I mean, how did… Not how you got to Toronto for the show. How did you become who you are in the constellation of Twister? What were you doing, how did you come up… What was your background?
14:49 Matty: Yeah, you know what, it’s a… It’s a funny story that I probably can’t share to all the viewers here [laughter] right now, but one thing that I can comment, kudos to Jay for founding the company, and then having the opportunity to come on, on board. And you really build out the company from being part of it from five employees all the way up to now, where we’re pushing over 50 and… And it really, I think, for me personally, it’s the relationships. It’s the relationships within the industry, really being passionate about that, staying connected to people all the way along, showing up the lift conference here, seeing so many faces that I saw four years ago, before they were even licensed in Canada, really helping them grow and grow with them, that’s the incredible part, and having humbly and proudly hearing people so excited to see the Twister guys, and as we are to see the Boveda guys. But it’s just those relationships, that’s something that really makes me tick.
15:53 Scott: Now after being in the industry for quite some time, where do you see it going over the next couple of years, five years down the road?
16:04 Matty: You know what? Those years are fast moving years.
16:07 Scott: Yeah.
16:08 Matty: So if you would have asked me how would I have felt about the industry two years ago, would I have given you the answer of what it is today? By no means, having multi-million square foot greenhouses. I was on the panel with Vic Neufeld from Aphria earlier today, and he was sharing that his 2.3 million square foot greenhouse. It’s just incredible where it’s going. It’s all about educating people and really pulling back the curtains and understanding about what’s happening in the industry. Now, to answer your question about where we see it’s gonna be in five years, it’s a tough one, but I just… What I can hope for is that the stigma of basement grows and illegal trade and all those bad associations that cannabis has been affiliated to, I hope that that stigma gets dropped. So if there’s anything that I could hope for, it would be that. And that only can happen with people like yourselves, out there, and educating from the municipal level, provincial level, federal level. All the way along.
17:15 Drew: And are you operating everywhere that cannabis is being cultivated, that’s part of your scope, where are you… Where aren’t you?
17:25 Matty: Yeah, so it’s really hard for us to track exactly where we are, ’cause we have sold through retail channels and distributors over in Europe. But I’m confident that I can share with you that we’re in over 20 different countries, we’ve been doing this for, like I said, 12 years, and yeah, from Australia to Germany to Switzerland to Czech Republic. Throughout the US, South America. I think we even had a sale in Asia at one point. But yeah, I think if any jurisdiction where it’s medical, we definitely have a footprint there. And with these emerging markets coming online as well, yeah, I know that we’re entering in those spaces as well.
18:03 Drew: So as long as they’re growing cannabis flower, they’re gonna have to trim it properly?
18:07 Matty: Yeah, and you know what? Once the industry continues to open up like it does, there is the thought, of course, like any big ag that it would commoditize. And the price… Well, there will be price pressure and the prices will drop, and so automation is something that everyone has to embrace. So they cannot neglect that because agriculture’s a game of millions of pennies and you have to be able to get that cost of production down and the only feasible way to do that is automation like Twister Trimmer.
18:41 Scott: How many people would it take to trim at the speed your Tzero trims at?
18:47 Matty: Well, yeah, that’s… I got to reverse the math here. But I can tell viewers, those listening right now, that we normally benchmark and it’s a pretty standard industry benchmark that a seasoned hand trimmer can trim a pound and half to two pounds a day, right? So to answer your question, Scott. The Tzero will be doing over 100 pounds an hour, so on an eight hour shift, we’re looking at doing upwards of 1,000 pounds a day.
19:18 Scott: That’s insane.
19:18 Drew: It wouldn’t necessarily have to be an eight hour shift.
19:21 Matty: No. No, typically…[chuckle]
19:24 Drew: I’m just saying, with the automation there’s no limit on the amount of hours you could run. Or you’d have to have somebody…
19:31 Matty: Well, you’d have people operating it. And you and I could sneak out for a beer though.[laughter]
19:40 Scott: No but that just goes to show, like you said, instead of having to hire 10-15 people even more at a big operation.
19:47 Matty: Scott, 10 or 15, we’re talking about 50 to 100. We’re talking about having housing on the property of these farms, so to speak, right? Housing for international workers. This is something… You know what, it’s not about not having those hands and that employment. We’re not trying to offset that. This is the ability to allocate resources in other areas of your grow that really matter, right? How to get those employees and get those teammates of yours to help curate the plant for customer service when you’re selling the product. Educating them, then being an ambassador to the brand rather than being in your trim room.
20:28 Drew: So somebody asked a question about blogs. Scott, do you know anything about blogs?
20:32 Scott: Yeah, so you can find this episode on all of Boveda social media. So on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, @bovedacannabis, also we’ll be doing a blog right up on our website about it and I believe Twister is doing the same.
20:45 Matty: Yeah, you can find the blog and any kind of write up on their twister website. Twistertrimmer.com.
20:51 Drew: Twistertrimmer.com [chuckle]
20:53 Matty: That’s correct. We have a whole educational site focused around that page, focused around that.
20:58 Scott: That’s awesome.
21:00 Matty: You’re awesome.
21:00 Drew: Matty Christopherson.
21:02 Scott: Drew’s kind of awesome.
21:03 Drew: I’m alright.
21:04 Scott: That hair’s awesome.
21:04 Drew: I feel good. I feel really good.
21:06 Matty: You look great.
21:06 Drew: I feel good.
21:07 Scott: Slightly tired.
21:07 Drew: You look fabulous.
21:08 Matty: Thank you.
21:09 Drew: You look tired?
21:10 Scott: No, you do.
21:11 Drew: Thank you, thank you.[chuckle]
21:13 S?: Oh, I feel good, though.
21:13 Scott: So if you’re new trying to get into the industry, is there any advice that you’d give someone?
21:19 Matty: It’s a pretty open ended question. So I guess the big thing would be to find out who you can lean on to get educated correctly. So, again, one of our key pillars is education and if you’re leaning on the wrong person or someone that you may think that will be providing you good information…Make sure you do your homework on who you’re relying on and those reputable brands that can actually educate you all the way through the process. So again, it’s an open ended question, so it depends on what segment of the industry you want to get involved in. But yeah, become passionate. Dive in two feet. Right. Stand for what you wanna do. Don’t be embarrassed, don’t be ashamed, there’s no… There should be no stigma around cannabis. So embrace it and yeah. Again, the relationships…
22:10 Scott: Great advice.
22:10 Drew: This has been awesome. Thank you for tuning in.