Trimming marijuana buds is one of the hardest and most low-paying jobs in the cannabis industry, but thousands of seasonal workers still arrive at marijuana farms in Northern California every summer. However, they may lose their employment opportunities when Bloom Automation launches its trimming robot later this year.
Bloom Automation is a Boston-based company that has recently presented a prototype of its marijuana-trimming robot. Though all previous attempts of the industry to create a trimming machine resulted in the merciless damaging of pot yields, the developers assure that this robot can provide up to 80 percent of human accuracy.
The three-feet-tall robot can hold a typical 8-11-inch marijuana branch and trim its buds just in four minutes. A patented algorithm determines the undesired material on the pot buds. There are built-in digital cameras and computer vision that make the unit able to trim the unsmokable leaves and keep the nugs intact. According to the developers, the robot can trim up to an ounce of marijuana per day, which is nearly the same scope of work a human trimmer performs in one day.
The first commercial launch is planned for the end of 2017. However, the robot's price is quite eye-popping: $20,000 per unit.
So, can the marijuana trimming robot leave farm employees penniless?
Cannabis growers engage in trimming marijuana buds as it is the simplest way to increase pot quality. Marijuana leaves are low in THC, thus trimmed flowers cost more in dispensaries.
The labor of human trimmers is formidable and requires high concentration and eye strain. The employees are usually paid from $100 to $300 for a 10-15-hour shift on the black market. Moreover, the job is often associated with common sexual harassment, unfair payment, and poor housing conditions.
Thus, trimming robots can significantly simplify the labor of trimmers and save them from improper employer's behavior. Meanwhile, farmers will not have to worry about trafficking anymore.
However, there are doubts that the trimming machines can substitute human labor.
The first disadvantage is the price. The robot is primarily designed for small-time pot growers with up to 5,000 square feet of cultivation facilities. Such producers require two machines, and this is already a $40,000 bill. It is the cost of a car, so not all growers will be ready to pay such a huge price for the Bloom robot.
The second drawback is the human factor. The robot still requires an operator to load marijuana branches on the conveyor belt properly. The machine's trimming is not final, as some pruning is also required. Finally, trimming buds quickly and effectively is a skill that is learned and developed over time. That is why, elite brands of marijuana still need skilled human trimming.
Nevertheless, Bloom Automation is going to test their robots during marijuana harvest in Colorado. The developers are sure that their machines will improve the efficiency of the process and if not substitute human trimmers than at least ease their work.