America grows almost 30 million pounds of weed each year, New Frontier data estimates, but who separates the sexy colas from the snicklefritz?
For most cannabis growers—harvesting is still medieval. Human eyes and hands do the laborious cutting, trimming, sizing, and packaging. But as the $18.3 billion legal cannabis industry expands and industrial farming ramps up, operators are wheeling in massive, expensive machines to lighten the load, save time, and thus, save consumers money.
As an example, Leafly shares this video (above) of a $21,500 industrial cannabis sorting machine.
Like it or not—size matters. Big, dense buds of cannabis sell for more than tiny, little frizzy balls of it.
The 2021 Mobius M9 sorter weighs 450 pounds, and can reportedly sort and size 440 pounds of weed per hour—allowing six to eight human employees to go do something more fun on the farm.
“Sorters provide a fast and labor-free way to grade flowers for retail shelves. Brands that work primarily in large-scale flower processing can use this technology to increase the speed and efficiency of their operations and to reduce labor costs,” Mobius’ parent company, Eteros Technologies told Leafly in an email. “At the end of the day, quality and consistency are key.”
In the above video shot at fourth-generation Ladybug Farms in Watsonville, CA in May, two sorting machines face off—each sizing 13 pounds of nugs of Mango Biche and Wedding Cake. The M9 did it in about 140 seconds. The process is simple:
- Workers load the M9’s infeed hopper, which hops buds varying in size from shake to more than 3 inches.
- Nine rotating sorting belts gradually increase in spacing as they stretch down a 78-inch sorting table.
- As the belt space increases, buds fall through onto the sorting table, where adjustable outfeed partitions funnel the sized buds into the correct bin for inspection and packaging.
The flower sorted by the machines in this video went into bargain brand Old Pal pouches on sale at over 400 dispensaries in California.
As machines increasingly do more of the work, weed prices continue to go down from prohibition highs. The average cost of a legal, tested eighth-ounce in California is now $48 before taxes, Leafly data finds. (We just got done smoking a $100 half-ounce of Peanut Butter Breath from brand Cali Plug. Old Pal quarter-ounces run $40.)
“Cannabis cultivators and processors are always engaged in a constant battle to increase yields, reduce loss, and ensure high quality is maintained during the trimming process,” stated Aaron McKellar, CEO of Mobius Trimmer. “When sorting can handle more product in less time while increasing accuracy in sizing, a large part of the battle is won.”
Five-year-old Vancouver, British Columbia company Eteros Technologies is the parent company of Mobius and Triminator, specializing in post-harvesting machines. Mobius M9s are in use across the US and Canada and selling out as they’re built, Eteros said.
Eteros claims its M9 is 1.5 times faster than the nearest competitor, but you’ll have to verify for yourself. (GreenBroz makes a fine sorter, as well.)
Eteros hosts its third “Demo in the Desert” event at its Las Vegas shop in October.