The importance of automation in the cannabis industry

It is hard to know how to feel or how to react in these uncertain times surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. One thing that has become apparent is how important cannabis has become in our society and that production must continue during this crisis. In many parts of North America, cannabis businesses have been deemed “essential” and have been encouraged to stay open despite mandated retail closures and stay at home restrictions.

Recently, cannabis sales have soared according to industry leading analytics firm Headset. They also reported that inventory levels dipped to dangerous levels with stock-outs occurring in many regions in some product categories. Keep in mind that this may just be the beginning. Mass social anxiety, around the COVID-19 pandemic, is being referenced as one of the main reasons for this significant increase in cannabis sales. As the pandemic continues to intensify, so will the demand for cannabis.

For cannabis producers and farmers, supply chain and staffing issues will wreak havoc in the weeks and months ahead. Most cultivation related jobs are extremely hands-on and cannot be done offsite. Although, companies are taking precautions to keep their workers and customers safe, government-imposed restrictions may soon dwindle staffing to the point where we see massive production shortages.
Many operations have already automated while others have held to a more traditional hands-on approach. Until the traditional operations start to embrace automation we can expect a reverberating effect throughout the industry.

In a recent post, Jan Zhang with market research provider Interact Analysis had the following to say regarding automation in the post COVID-19 world “For manufacturing… the epidemic has exposed some of the problems and risks that already existed… and might force them to reform, including radical improvements to automation”.
Two of the biggest staffing bottlenecks in the cannabis harvesting process are trimming and destemming. Fortunately, there have been huge advancements in the automation of both these processes in recent years. These days, the purchase of a single automated trimmer can reduce your staffing needs from 75 human trimmers to 2 machine operators.

As we continue to navigate through uncertain times please take comfort in knowing that innovation and improved automation will help producers and farmers meet the ever-growing demands society has placed on the cannabis industry.

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