With their sleepless robot hands, machine trimmers promise more bud, faster than ever before.
Laura Jones-Compton stands amid medicinal marijuana plants at the Mother room at Tweed INC., in Smith Falls, Ontario, on December 5, 2016. / AFP / Lars Hagberg (Photo by LARS HAGBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
As the marijuana business expands across North America, legalization going into effect in Canada and throughout the USA, a key question emerges. Who will be doing the labor as it flips from a black market industry into the straight and narrow? Or to be even more specific, will the workforce be us flesh-bag humans or those sleepless machines, who couldn’t smoke weed even if they wanted to.
Legal marijuana promises to be one of the largest industries in The United States. Recent reports project a rapidly expanding workforce, one of the largest on the continent, doing laps around the traditional manufacturing sectors still recovering from the recession. With all the various strains available, outlets and overall high demand, there’s an opportunity for a significant employment to be had. But just like cashiers are being swapped for self-checkout stations and truckers fear the driverless automobiles of tomorrow, there’s a chance that these jobs might be snuffed out before they even ignite.
To their credit, Boston’s Bloom Automation claim that they aren’t looking to put anyone out of work. “We’re not aiming to take anyone’s job,” said Bloom CEO Jon Gowa to Business Insider, “just improve efficiency and alleviate a significant pain point.”
The company has claimed their machines can clean a branch in four minutes with 80% accuracy. Bloom’s machines will still require a human to operate them, and the company says they’re accessible enough that an engineering degree won’t be required.
Californias transient trimmers, sometimes called “trimmigrants” are an integral part of the Emerald Valley’s cannabis production and an infamous part of its history. Trimming is painstaking and intensive on the body. There is also a history of human trafficking and exploitation of migrant workers. Of course, most of this history is in regards to the black market, and legal suppliers have already shown immense improvement (not that it’s an especially high bar to improve from). With time it’s possible for this workforce to demand and develop safe conditions and fair benefits. Heck, we’re already seeing unions take shape in the world of legal marijuana.
One might think the biggest deterrent to an automated labor force in marijuana is the price point. Bloom’s first wave of machines will cost $20,000, which isn’t exactly cheap. But while Bloom’s altruism for keeping people employed is appreciated, the companies investing in the machine trimmers won’t live by that standard. Especially, when you consider that a human trimmer can make anywhere between $5000 to $15,000 in a harvest season. An automated device is a one-time investment with a long-term ROI. California cannabis growers will soon have to decide if the ‘trimmigrant’ tradition is something that will be left behind as legalization turns the page.