a GreenBroz machine trimmer with a pair of Hydrofarm Precision Pruners

Machine Trimming vs. Hand Trimming

Harvest season is here. Is it time to automate?

Machine trimming is a relatively new way to trim up your harvest in a quick, cost-efficient manner. Hand trimming has been around for centuries!

But just because one way has been around a long time, doesn't mean it is the best way. In fact, it has become a mainstream debate among growers, which is truly the better option.

Of course with just about everything when it comes to growing, it's all about preference and your needs as a grower.

The Classic Hand Trim

Hand trimming has been the most popular method for centuries not just because of its simplicity. Hand trimming requires nothing but a pair of scissors and the grower's undivided attention.

A pair of scissors will always be cheaper than a machine trimmer. But that's not the only benefit to hand trimming.

With hand trimming comes more attention to detail. Human error can cause plenty of problems in the grow, but when it comes to hand trimming, humans are the best at it!

You can cut the exact leaves you don't want, and keep the ones that you do. You can trim your plants to look refined and sharp, or leave them a little rough around the edges for a more natural look.

However with the latest innovations in machine trimmers, it is becoming more possible to replicate a decent hand trim at scale while cutting costs.

The Cons to Hand Trimming

This brings us to the cons of hand trimming, the biggest of which has to do with scaling. Hand trimming a couple dozen plants might take a few days, but it is easily doable by one person or a couple friends working together.

But if you have a large scale operation with hundreds or thousands of plants, trimming all of it by hand takes a team and a lot of time...or a machine and a lot less.

Another con to hand trimming has been mentioned already; human error. It's a double edged sword when it comes to hand trimming!

You can trim by hand for a finely manicured and great looking final product, or you can completely botch it and accidentally snip off flowers when you mean to snip off a leaf. The longer you're sitting there trimming, the easier it becomes to get lazy, cut corners, and make mistakes.

Machine trimmers were basically invented to deal with all of these issues.

The Machine Trimmer Revolution

With more people cultivating on a larger scale than ever before, there was a need for either more hand trimmers (which means more paychecks), or a solution to using people all together. Machine trimmers are the latest innovation that attempts to do just that.

While not completely automated, a machine trimmer helps trim your flowers faster and in larger quantities. The only real input required by a human is adding in the flower at one end, and collecting it at the other!

Machine trimmers have made it possible for a one-man team growing at scale to trim up their harvest fast and efficiently, while still presenting an appealing final product. A high quality machine trimmer can trim as much as 15 pounds of plant material per hour.

Compare that to a human that can maybe trim one pound in 4 hours. When you have 200 pounds to trim, a machine trimmer starts to look a lot more appealing.

But machine trimmers don't come without their pitfalls.

The Cons to Machine Trimming

Machine trimmers have gotten pretty close to replicating a hand trim over the last few years. But the reality is a machine can never compete with the human eyes and hands.

A high quality hand trim can only be done by...well...hands!

A big issue that most cultivators have with machine trimmers is how they handle the flowers as they pass through the machine. Yes, this has improved in recent years, but let us take a quick dive into how the average machine trimmer operates.

Every machine trimmer is equipped with some sort of steel or titanium blades. Through spinning, tumbling or shaking, the machine bounces the flowers around while the blades spin, trimming off excess leaves.

The majority of machine trimmers are fixed in this way; the blades are one size, and move in one cycle. This means that once your flower is trimmed, it needs to be taken out right away, or the trimming continues, and continues, until there is no flower left.

Also with your flower constantly being bounced around and hit with heavy blades, important exterior features like trichomes can be knocked off in the process reducing terpenes, i.e. the smell profile of your flowers.

The Lowdown

When it comes to choosing between hand trimming or machine trimming, there's just a few things you really need to consider. Money, quantity, and quality.

If you're growing at scale, a machine trimmer is likely a good investment. You will be able to trim your plants much more efficiently and quickly, which means you can pump out more product more often.

The same goes for quantity. Hand trimming hundreds of pounds is basically impossible these days, especially with production and employee costs on top of deadlines. A machine trimmer will get the job done with ease.

But when it comes to quality, machine trimming still just can't compete with a good hand trim. Due to the reasons mentioned in the cons for machine trimming, the chances of damage to a flower in a machine trimmer are a lot higher.

With a hand trim, you can be careful with how you handle each flower, leaving its trichomes and resins intact for a fuller smell and appearance. Yes, it will always take more time to hand trim.

But if you ask any consumer, 99% will prefer a hand trimmed flower over one that has just been tossed in machine with a thousand other flowers and tossed around for a minute. If you're wondering why that is, maybe it's time you did your own comparison!

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