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Cannabis Grows: Machine Trimming vs Hand Trimming

Growing cannabis is both a labor of love and a great business opportunity. As the prohibition laws preventing the legal cultivation and sale of marijuana have begun to relax around North America, more and more people are finding fortunes in the cannabis industry. 

But cultivating marijuana isn’t all relaxing on the couch passing a blunt back and forth -- it’s hard work. That hard work doesn’t stop when the cannabis finishes growing either. Harvest time can be one of the most labor-intensive periods for a grower. Large commercial operations require a team of dedicated employees and loads of processing equipment.

One of the most essential and most laborious tasks growers need to complete post-harvest is trimming. The excess leaves on marijuana buds need to be removed, and the nugs properly pruned before they are ready for retail sale. Different cultivators have different techniques for accomplishing this tedious and often sticky task. Some prefer the precision of trimming by hand, while others would rather save time and money by utilizing specially designed machinery. Each option has its own merits and downsides. Keep reading to find out which trimming technique is right for your grow op. 


Benefits of Hand Trimming  

When most people hear that something has been “handmade,” they envision a product that has been painstakingly crafted by a talented artisan. Think about marijuana in the same way. Hand trimmed buds have the benefit of being handled by a human who can judge the best way to trim the unique strain in front of them. There are so many different marijuana strains, all with different structures -- some fluffier, some denser, some with more pistil hairs and some with more trichomes. A human can much more accurately trim in a way that caters to an individual strain’s needs than a machine can. Machine trimmers are also notoriously rough on flower. The vibrations caused by the equipment can knock off delicate trichomes and negatively influence the taste and potency of your harvest. Because of this, hand-trimmed buds are often of higher quality. If you’re a grower who only wants to package the dankest award-winning marijuana, then trimming by hand is probably going to be your best bet. 


Downsides of Hand Trimming

Trimming marijuana by hand takes a long time. Even with the best pruning shears and gloves, it can be a messy and monotonous process. For large scale commercial growers to process their harvests, they often need to hire on several trimmers. Labor costs can quickly add up and eat away at your bottom line. If you’re just a hobbyist processing their personal harvest, this isn’t such a big deal, but maximizing each harvest’s profit margin is paramount for commercial growers. 


Benefits of Machine Trimming 

If you’re looking to make it easier on yourself, machine trimming is the way to go. Technology has come a long way, and the machinery available for processing cannabis is better than ever before. The most significant benefit to machine trimming is by far the money saved on labor costs. Hiring a team of trimmers is incredibly expensive and slower than machine trimming. For large scale commercial operations, the money saved on labor will often pay for the initial investment put in a machine trimmer in only one or two harvests. The money that you save on paying trimmers can be better spent in other places, like hiring master extractors and conducting genetic research and development. 


Downsides of Machine Trimming

Many growers find the imprecision of machine trimmers to be dealbreakers. While the human eye can perfectly trim a bud in a way that highlights the strain’s best features and is aesthetically pleasing, machine trimmers tend to cut all buds down to the same shape. Not only does this make for less visually appealing flower, but it also can over trim flower, wasting precious cannabis. There is also the hurdle of the initial investment. Trimming machines can carry a large price tag of thousands of dollars. For smaller operations, or for those just starting out in the cannabis cultivation game, these machines can be prohibitively expensive. 


Hybrid Trimming

There is a third option. Some cultivators practice what’s called hybrid trimming. Buds are first thrown in a machine trimmer for a short amount of time, doing the bulk of the trimming while making sure not to over trim the flower. Then the marijuana is handled by humans who make the final trims by hand before they are packaged. By using a hybrid trimming technique, it’s possible to get the best of both worlds.
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