Researchers working in a hemp field
Researchers working in a hemp field (Stokkete / Shutterstock.com)

By Geoffrey Taylor, MA
Hemp Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

Geoffrey Taylor
Geoffrey Taylor, MA

With the end of the hemp season approaching quickly, many growers are already planning ways to maximize their efficiency in their harvesting, drying and curing operations. As 2020 has already presented growers with a slew of other challenges from market volatility to regulatory and enforcement hurdles, many growers are working to utilize new technologies and approaches that streamline the immense workflow that comes with harvest. Ensuring you have the right approaches and needed equipment to harvest, dry, cure and store hemp for the long term is critical to keeping your crop viable for the marketplace.

“The growing side of the hemp industry gets the most pressure from processors and distributors, but growers are feeling a lot of pressure from the production costs and the labor costs of harvesting,” said Cullen Raichart, a veteran and Founder/CEO of GreenBroz, a cutting edge harvest and trim equipment manufacturer based in Las Vegas, Nevada. “Our line of equipment was born out of the industry and it came from a place of experience in the industry, from people who know the plant and who engineer the machines to handle your crop gently and efficiently.”

As hemp is such a new marketplace in the United States and the types of hemp being produced often differ greatly from hemp cultivars farmed across the globe, US hemp farmers face a unique situation in harvesting, drying, trimming and curing a product that is very susceptible to issues such as mold, mildew and rot. Though this presents unique challenges to growers, hemp is still a fairly labor-intensive crop in comparison to many others as its yielded product is a dried and cured flower, not a fruit or vegetable contained within a skin, rind or peel.

“We had to take a holistic approach to harvesting and handling because a lot of equipment was designed around the needs of other crops, but technologies like ours are tailored for the needs of the hemp and cannabis industries,” said Raichart. “No other product or commodity is like hemp and cannabis flowers, which presents a unique challenge to harvesting and maintaining a quality product so we had to dig deep and look at the plant to create a delicate process that looked at what we want to accomplish and work backward to create a technology that reflects that.”

The hemp industry lacks truly standardized techniques and cultivars grown domestically vary greatly in height and circumference due to diverse genetic offerings. Though the drying and curing processes are relatively uniform in using large wire walls to hang plants until thoroughly dried, the trimming aspect also varies based upon your desired outcome.

Growers need to evaluate their needs in relation to how their harvest will be used, packaged, processed or consumed. For growers aiming to cultivate boutique quality smokable hemp, this includes a refined drying, curing and trimming process that yields a well-preserved flower, suitable for this type of consumption. For growers who will be extracting their crops, these processes are often still needed to preserve the long-term quality of their harvest, though less attention to fine trimming is acceptable.

“There’s been a lot of up and down in the hemp marketplace and I’ve seen growers go out of business because they weren’t focused on the long term,” said Raichart. “Growers need to invest wisely into good partners, good equipment and hold on – don’t get discouraged by the market today.”

GreenBroz line of harvesting, trimming and solventless extraction equipment provides cannabis and hemp growers across the globe with tailored solutions to their unique needs while manufacturing 100 percent of their equipment and machinery in the United States. Utilizing 98 percent American sourced materials in their machinery, and with each machine being between 96 to 98 percent recyclable at end of life, GreenBroz provides American growers with definitively American solutions.

“We know regulation is coming and we built our equipment with the highest quality materials to meet and exceed the needs of even GMP facilities,” Raichart stated referring to facilities dedicated to the production, formulation and storage of pharmaceutical products. “We wanted to anticipate those needs from the start, so our harvesting solutions were regulation ready.”

As Kern County hemp growers begin tackling their full season harvest, the harvesting, drying, trimming and curing needs of growers present challenges, particularly for newer growers who may be inexperienced with how hemp is to be handled and stored properly to prevent post-harvest microbiological or fungal issues while simultaneously avoiding external or environmental contaminants.

“Cannabis and hemp are unique in that the flower is really the most valuable part of the plant, but its unprotected,” said Raichart, “and because of that, we really have to stay focused on the processes we develop to maintain the highest quality products using the most gentle, hygienic and efficient approaches available.”