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Man vs. Machine: Why you should reconsider machine trimming

May 31, 2016

Conventional cannabis wisdom says, “Hand trim if possible, machine trim if volume requires it.”

And as you might expect, there’s truth to this truism. What may take a human trimmer a day to do can be done by machine in half an hour. So, if you are harvesting 100 pounds of bud, the time, expense and logistics of hand trimming may drive you to investing in automated trimming.

However, for many master growers, the quality tradeoff is regrettable, at least in terms of conventional wisdom. But maybe it’s time to rethink that wisdom.

What is there to rethink? According to Rita Clair with Triminator, start with these two items.

1.       Consistency
So you harvested 100 pounds and you need to trim it this week. At one pound per trimmer per day, you will need 20 people trimming all day, all week. How likely is it that all 20 of your trimmers will trim the same way? Zero. Hand trimming is a craft, and the results will vary by craftsman. That’s not inherently bad, but it is inherently inconsistent. And if you have 20 different trimmers working on your crop, most likely a couple of them are new to their craft or otherwise less than top grade.

And consistency isn’t likely a function of whether your trimmers are in-house or contractors. If they are in-house, you may have greater control over how they are trained as well as over their overall approach to trimming. But most in-house trimmers have other duties and don’t trim every day. If you contract with a firm that specializes in trimming, you’ll have trimmers who do nothing but trim bud. All day, every day. Often these are the best craftsmen in the business. But there will still be inconsistency.

2.        Quality
If you automatically assign the quality advantage to hand trimming, you may need to rethink things. Hand trimming is high touch. It requires holding each bud for several seconds and rotating it in the trimmer’s fingers multiple times before putting it in a container with other “handled” buds. And even though trimmers wear gloves, throughout the process the bud is squeezed, subjected to foreign matter, clipped repeatedly—hopefully correctly, but scissors slip and people make mistakes—and put in contact with buds that have been handled by other trimmers that could be contaminated.

By contrast, machine trimming minimizes human handling. And while machines may not be as delicate as you would like, today’s top quality equipment is engineered to deliver surprisingly good results, often rivaling a craftsman.

So, whether you are a hand trimming holdout, or a grower who uses automated trimming only when it’s necessary, it may be time to reconsider conventional wisdom.

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