While most cannabis dispensaries have fared well during the coronavirus pandemic, it has been a bumpy road for some of those on the cultivation side. The problem isn't the actual cultivation—that can easily be done from a social distance. It’s during the post-harvest process where many are seeing challenges.
If you imagine a traditional trim room set up for hand-trimming, it's easy to see why: Depending on the size of the facility, often dozens of workers are sitting shoulder to shoulder; masks or gloves are typically not required; there is a consistent stream of people entering and exiting the room swapping in and out for various shifts; and ventilation, unfortunately, is not always great. It's the perfect scenario for the spread of illness, whether that be COVID-19, flu, cold, or anything else that’s potentially contagious.
When the coronavirus hit, this caused enormous problems for the trimming process of some cultivators. Social distancing was not possible in their trim rooms. And even if it was, dropping the room capacity by 50% or more meant their production volume would drop by the same amount as well. Pushback occurred from many employees who refused to show up to work regardless of safety measures put in place by the management. For some cultivators, production came to a standstill, and some even lost entire crops.
Now, many are finally understanding that there is a two-pronged solution to the problem: GMP standards and an automated harvesting process.
The standards in place at a GMP-certified facility reduce the chance of the spread of sickness between employees as well as any potential contamination of the product. Gloves, hairnets, and Tyvek suits are always worn, and in many cases masks are too. Surfaces and equipment are sanitized properly and often, and proof is well-documented when required by local authorities. Product handling is reduced, which provides a further level of protection for consumers. (This makes sense regardless; most consumers prefer products that they are ingesting to be handled less, not more.)
Automation provides a reduction in overall employee count, particularly in the trim room. A Mobius tandem-line operated by five employees could easily replace a crowded trim room with over forty hand-trimmers. If periodic COVID testing is part of the current safety protocol, that is much easier to do with five employees compared to forty.
It might be the coronavirus that triggered the new look of GMP certification and automation for some cultivators, but these protocols don't only protect against diseases. They're a way for businesses to be disaster proof, reduce costs, and ensure consistency and product safety.
To learn more about GMP in the trim room, take a closer look at our Ultimate Guide to a GMP-Certified Cannabis Workflow.
And when you’re ready to talk about automation in your facility, please get in touch.