Cannabis Automation

Feb 6, 2023

Why Cannabis Automation is Important

Cannabis automation has become an increasingly important topic in the industry as growers look to reduce labor costs and improve efficiency. One of the biggest labor costs for cannabis producers is the post-harvest process, which includes tasks such as trimming, de-leafing, and visual inspection. These tasks are necessary to deliver a high-quality product, but they are also time-consuming and labor-intensive. In the cannabis industry, just like in the almond industry, the best products are worth significantly more than lower-grade ones. 

Luckily, automation has made the post-harvest process easier in recent years. Trimming machines have been available for over a decade and have been widely adopted by growers. However, the focus has shifted from how the machines work to how the overall system integration has advanced. PLC integration, remote monitoring, data logging, recipe settings, laser volumetric scanners, HEPA filtration, and material movement are all important components of a successful automation system. 

The cannabis processing space is starting to resemble other manufacturing processes seen in other industries such as food, beverage, pharma, and consumer packaged goods (CPG). Producers who are focused on the long-term are implementing as much automation as possible to lower their cost of goods. Industrial automation allows for consistent results and reduces downtime, which is critical in maintaining a brand’s reputation. A metric that will become increasingly important in the cannabis industry is uptime, which measures the amount of time equipment is operational. As the cannabis industry becomes more competitive, the need for reliable equipment is critical. 

There are companies working on developing de-leafing robots using artificial intelligence (AI). These robots have articulating arms with cameras and fingers that can pick away between tables or gutters. While there are still challenges to overcome, it won’t be long until these robots become widely adopted. 

Another trend in the cannabis industry is pay-per-use services, which originated in other industries such as power generation and jet engine manufacturing. This model, known as “hardware as a service,” allows for low upfront costs and the maintenance to be taken care of by the service provider. For example, one trimming company offers a service called “Flower by the Hour.” This allows growers to pay only for the hours they use the equipment, reducing costs and increasing efficiency. 

Visual inspection of each flower is another common bottleneck that automation is beginning to solve. Most cannabis producers are very aware of their brand’s reputation, and the importance of ensuring that every flower that enters a package is visually inspected on both sides. Ensuring that each and every flower is inspected takes time, and many producers have come to realize that due to high turnover rates of hand trimmers, it’s difficult to trust that each flower is properly inspected. Automation allows for consistent, accurate inspections, reducing the risk of poorly trimmed, yellow or moldy flowers entering a package and damaging a brand’s reputation. 

In conclusion, cannabis automation is an essential part of the cannabis industry, and it is crucial for reducing labor costs and improving efficiency. 


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