Cannabis post-harvest stages

There are many different stages in cannabis plant life from seedling, growing and flowering to harvesting and processing. This article will focus on one of the in-between stages, the trimming phase and how to do it best on a large scale.

In general, cannabis cultivation is divided into three main processes: Growing, Vegetation and Flowering, harvesting and post-harvesting. The trimming stage is related to the post-harvesting stage.

The trimming process begins at the end of the flowering stage; between 8 and 12 weeks depending on the strain. After harvesting, the removal of the main stems takes place. The trimming process consists of removing the less wanted parts of the plant such as fan leaves, regular leaves, and other leaves right at the beginning of the harvest phase. Trimming is a form of manicuring the cannabis flowers or buds from the plant material which contains low concentrations of cannabinoids if any at all.

Cannabis trimming techniques

In general, there are two types of trimming, dry trimming and wet trimming. Dry and wet trimming can be performed automatically or manually.

Choosing the best trimming technology should be based on the cannabis product type, intended use, and cost-effectiveness considerations.

How to choose the best Cannabis trimming technology?

When the plant material goes through extraction for the Cannabinoids and terpenes as an intermediate product to be used for final cannabis product formulations such as oil, tablets, soft gels, isolates, edibles etc the trimming process can be less rigid. In this case, it is less important to achieve a nice bud with no additional sugar leaves or small stems. Moreover, in this kind of process, one would like to maximize the yield and therefore use plant material as well as the buds, such as sugar leaves that contain low concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes. In these type of processes, the plant material will be milled before further processing and therefore, an advanced trimming stage is less critical. The milling process breaks the cannabis into small pieces of uniform particle sizes in order to maximize the surface area and process yield of the extraction process.

In a case where the cannabis flower or bud is considered to be the final product and is used for smoking or vaporization, the buds need to look and smell nice and need to be kept whole, a more delicate process is required.  A machine is needed to remove the fan leaves, sugar leaves, stems and other extraneous parts of the plant.

Cannabis trimming technical considerations

There are many different trimming methods and technologies that exist. For smaller grow operations, hand trimming, with the help of scissors, is usually the best option, but it is quite expensive. You will quickly realize that on a bigger scale you will need a more automated, robust, efficient and industrial solution.

There’s a range of brands and companies that build trimming machines which is now a very competitive market. You can choose the type, the price, the technology, the size, the trimming rate, safety, quality and yield depending on your future product. You can find anything from a hand trimming machine to a larger machine, around a few square meters in size. You can also find mechanical machines that will still require some human touch to put the plant part to be trimmed inside. This needs more time and physical effort, but you can also choose a semi-automatic or fully automated and controlled machine.

Some machines can process between 1 and 10 kilos per hour. Some manufacturers will even suggest their machines can process 70 kilos or more flowers per hour. Obviously, this will depend on the quality, the price of the machine and on the strain that is used.

There are many types of machines. Usually, they differ in their construction materials, motors, blade type, their tumbler sizes, the processing capacity per hour, the blade speed and the conveyors capacity. In general, the manufacturer will have different machines with diverse capabilities depending on whether the final product is dry or wet. It should be between 9 and 14% water content. With a tumbler with a volume capacity of 1 to 185 liters which is about a 1 HP motor. Some machines can process anything from a few kilos to 300 kilos of flowers per hour. The blade speed can perform some 56,000 cuts per minute with about a 20 HP motor.

Better machines have a variable speed control on all inputs including the tumblers, blades, vacuum and conveyors and angle adjustment. This allows specific tuning to be adapted to the flower characteristics and your own trimming needs. Some machines can work in tandem, multiplying the overall whole capacity.

What is important is that the machine doesn’t impact the bud itself. It keeps the trichomes in the flower, minimizes contamination and does not mix buds and leaves. You will need a smaller, slower, gentler machine if the yield per plant is lower. It is critical that the machine should be adapted to all of your batch sizes and harvests, making it flexible. Unless you have a very similar harvest each time, you will not be able to use the same machine every time.

More specifically you will need to adapt the different types of blades, types of grates and types of motor. Trimmer parts and accessories are essential to keep your machine running and to make cleaner cuts around the flower. Extreme hygiene both in and outside the machine is of the utmost importance and, in some regions, even mandatory.

Additional considerations before choosing the best trimming machine for your needs:

There is a huge array of options and brands out there, please be careful when choosing a device, there are more testimonies and scientific data available today that can be found with a simple google search online.

  • Material of construction
  • Noise level
  • GMP/CE certified
  • Safety guards
  • Sanitary design and cleanability
  • Cost of Spare parts
  • Validation
  • Service

About Cannabis GxP consultancy

Cannabis GXP is proud to stand at the forefront of the Cannabis industry in Israel and worldwide thanks to many years of experience in these areas.

Our team is compelled to spread the message of the importance of cannabis science, regulation and standardization as the world enters a new era of cannabis legislation.

We aim to position our clients with their best foot forward when it comes to anything and everything cannabis related.

Our vast expertise allows us to assist companies in a wide range of services and needs: Anything from Cannabis R&D, growing and manufacturing, new products development, facility design, technology, Quality Assurance, Good Practices (GAP/GMP/GLP/GDP/GCP), staff training, local and global regulations.

Cannabis GxP is a subsidiary company of Bio-Chem Ltd. (2007), a consultancy firm for the Pharmaceutical field, Medical Devices, Cosmetics and food supplements industry based in Israel.

Our cannabis consultancy services include:

  • Product development, delivery system & clinical trials
  • Growing, Manufacturing and Lab Facilities Design
  • Quality Assurance and Good Practices (GxP)
  • Cultivation & Product Manufacturing Technology
  • New product Regulations and Submissions
  • Qualification & Validation
  • Risk Assessment
  • Staff training

For more information and consultancy in choosing the trimming technology best suited to your company’s needs, please do not hesitate to contact us.