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In the California cannabis industry, small growers like VetsLeaf face competitors whose farms may span tens of thousands of square feet.

Sandra Silva-Tello, Tony Rivera and three others — four of the five are Marine Corps veterans who trained nearby in Twentynine Palms — started VetsLeaf in 2016. From the start, the five decided they would share a portion of the proceeds of their cannabis business with organizations that provide services to veterans like them.

There’s no way to know how many growers have started mechanizing and automating their farms. Brent Burman, vice president of the Coachella Valley Cannabis Alliance Network, said he still sees cultivators using equipment they bought at a hydroponics store to run multi-million dollar farms.

The Triminator, though, gets a room to itself. Depending on the size and model, Triminator sells trimmers for between $2,800 and $16,500, according to its website. Watson said VetsLeaf’s machine cost the company about $6,200.

‘We’re going to need more bodies’

“I’m able to take about three pounds — two, three pounds, roughly — and I’m able to trim it out in this machine in 15 minutes,” Watson said. “We’re able to be a little bit more economical with our time.”

Lise Bernard, the sales director at GreenBroz, another company that makes trimmers, extractors and sorters for the pot business, said some of the company’s customers are “super-secretive” about the fact that they’re using machines at all, fearing customers will think they’re skimping on quality.

“I’m telling you right now there’s no other horticultural or agricultural industry outside of cannabis that’s doing hand watering,” Flannery said.

Keeping doors open

“It’s about what you would pay somebody for a month of trimming,” he said, and a huge time saver for trimming small buds, which can be “an endless task.”

But not everyone is on board. One grower interviewed for this story said the adoption of machines like harvesters and trimmers is likely lower in the cannabis business than in analogous horticultural industries, in part because of the perception that machines will blemish delicate buds.

Weed growing technology

The industry is swiftly constructing itself around a plant that has been banned, stigmatized, and demonized for more than 80 years. And in the United States at least, no one seems to have a good solution for the fact that in recent years, 820,000 marijuana arrests have been estimated per year, and 50,000 of those have been estimated to lead to felony convictions. This means that while tech has brought on an exciting field of innovation, discoveries, and progress, it’s important to take a critical look at who this new industry-darling is benefiting and rewarding following the waves of legalization, and who it continues to penalize

Cultivation

Regardless, technology remains the best lever for growth in transforming how we relate to cannabis as a society, and what we’re seeing is changing everything from how the product is grown to how it’s being manufactured, purchased, delivered, customized—and, of course, consumed.

Retail, e-commerce, and delivery

For transparency, my own company Green Flower is one such learning platform, which allows cannabis industry employees to access crash courses from their smartphones.