In this post –
- Best de-leafing method for hemp flower
- Best harvest equipment for hemp flower
- Best bucking equipment for hemp flower
- Downsides of mechanical bucking
- Best post-harvest trimming method for hemp flower
- Post-harvest trimming devices to avoid
“First thing–you need to make sure you have excellent genetics. Then you can figure out how your hemp trimming and bucking process is going to work. If you don’t have good genetics, you don’t have flowers.” – Tommy Vick, Managing Partner of F&B Farms.
Point well taken, Tommy. But hemp seed genetics is a story for another blog (stay tuned). For today, let’s assume you have 5-star genetics that produces flower fit for royalty. Now all you need are the right tools and methods to carefully harvest your hemp and prepare it for its final destination. Do any old shears matter? Should you use bucking and trimming machines or go the manual route? What equipment works best?
What is the best de-leafing equipment and method for hemp flower?
“For pre-harvest de-leafing, first we take the netting off. Then we remove the large veg leaves while allowing the smaller leaves and buds to remain on top using delicate cannabis shears, loppers, or clippers. This is a manual and time-consuming process, but it’s the only way to be precise.” – Tommy Vick, Managing Partner of V&B Farms.
“I take off the majority of the giant fan leaves in a defoliating process after harvest. There are high-tech products for this, like Centurion’s Pro Trimmers. But I use a no-frills box fan like you’d see at grandma’s house blowing down on a table. The apparatus sucks the leaves, which house most of the chlorophyll, into the grate. This process ensures the flower doesn’t smell like cut grass. Instead, it will smell like terpenes.” – Michael Todd, Co-founder of WeTodd Farms.
What’s the best harvest equipment to cut hemp out of the ground?
According to the experts and every online forum ever, there are no greater harvest tools than hands and shears for hemp flower. Mechanical devices that effectively trim hemp plants from the base without shattering seeds and buds in the process simply don’t exist.
“The best method to preserve hemp’s cannabinoid and terpene-rich trichomes is manually cutting from the base using heavy-duty shears. By carefully hand harvesting, cultivators can separate the plant’s top from the stalk without damaging the CBD-rich buds. This process ensures the buds remain clean and their resin trichomes remain intact, guaranteeing the highest quality end product that preserves the full spectrum of aromatic and healing compounds.” – Tommy Vick.
What’s the “best type of shear,” you ask? We did too. But it turns out the brand doesn’t matter. As long as the shears are heavy-duty and the person who operates them has steady hands, you’re good to go.
“Even in a large hemp operation, we are still shearing by hand because we don’t want to damage the plants in transit from the field to the dryer room. In the future, we’re looking into tobacco machines that cut the stalk, pull it up (similar to a dry-cleaning rack), and load it into a trailer where no one has to touch the flower. But that’s just an idea for now.” – Mike Todd.
What’s the best bucking equipment & method for hemp flower?
“For small harvests, we buck wet flower using a tool that sits atop a five-pound bucket whose lid we cut in half. The device is similar to this Debudder Edge by Trim Scene Solutions, which mounts to plastic buckets and tables. We use this tool to remove the buds off the stems and drop them straight into the bucket. For each bucket, we get about 100 pounds, which takes about three days.
This method works, but it’s time-consuming, takes a lot of labor, and increases contamination risk. That’s why we’re moving to a more automated process that can buck up 4,000 pounds of dry hemp per week” – Tommy Vick.
“We’re currently in the process of creating custom machines that allow us to go straight from bucking to trimming to minimize as much touching as possible. We’re designing the apparatus using a food safety perspective to prevent contamination and be as efficient as possible to scale to commercial size. We need the machines to move fast, so we don’t risk rehydrating the plant and degrading its quality. Our goal is to buck and trim 300-400 pounds per hour.” – Tommy Vick.
“I buck hemp wet using a bucker machine that strips the flower off the lesser valued stems. There are tons of these devices on the market. Any kind will do. But you absolutely can’t skip this step in the process because you get paid based on the weight-to-CBD-concentration ratio. Processors who buy from farmers also prefer cleaner products. They don’t want large sticks and stems. We could leave the stems. But again, the overall percentage of CBD will be lesser, which reduces its overall market value”- Mike Todd.
What are the downsides of mechanical bucking?
Many bucking machines are proficient, but we’re going to tweak the standard design to work even better. The ones we’ve seen on the market don’t cut. They often work by ‘pulling’ the flower off the stem. Think about grabbing the flower at the base and yanking it. The process can be a bit messy, creates a lot of shake, and doesn’t make a presentable look.
So we want the machine to cut the flower clean off. We want to keep the bud structure tight and full so we don’t have too many small nuggets. We want big nuggets, and we want to preserve their integrity. SOME machines on the market work well, but they are very high priced. For us, it makes more financial sense to build our own.” – Tommy Vick.
What’s the best post-harvest trimming equipment to use for hemp flower, and how much does it cost?
Tommy and Mike both agree. They think hemp growers should avoid time-consuming hand trimming and go straight to the mechanical route no matter what the harvest size. Farmers can find efficient tabletop trimming machines for as little as $2,000, average models for $3,500, and high-end devices for up to $50,000. They recommend the Python and Centurion Trimming Machines, whose base models trim about 20 pounds per hour wet and 4 pounds per hour dry. High-end models, like the Python 400, can trim 400 pounds of dry flower per hour. Moreover, Python 400 is a bladeless model that ensures superior trichome preservation.
What post-harvest trimming devices should hemp farmers avoid?
“Along the way, I learned you get what you pay for. In other words, do NOT buy your hemp trimming machines on Alibaba or Wish.com. The motors aren’t strong, and the hinges are weak. Don’t waste your time. Instead, call an industry veteran you know and ask him or her for advice. You just gotta spend the money to ensure a quality hemp flower harvest,” Mike Todd.