Over the past eight years, as the cannabis industry has matured, GreenBroz has evolved from a simple trimming machine manufacturer into a company that provides a full range of automated harvesting solutions for the global cannabis economy.
While GreenBroz — as well as a dozen or so competitors — continues its quest to perfect the trimming equipment that put the company on the map, CEO Cullen Raichart says he’s always looking toward the future: It’s more about where the industry is headed, not where it’s been.
“I think production and throughput are kind of the name of the game,” he says. “If you’re going to be competitive in a market space like this, how can you handle and manage this volume in a cost-effective way?”
And for GreenBroz, that means delivering a full system capable of handling the processing needs of the industry’s biggest producers, including trimming, sorting, weighing, packaging and collecting a vast amount of data, all with minimal human interaction.
“The race to make the best single pieces of equipment is still going on,” Raichart says. “What you see is a lot of companies competing and making good equipment in specific arenas, but no one’s bringing it together.”
GreenBroz, however, is working on doing just that.
The crown jewel of cannabis automation is the GreenBroz end-to-end concept, which combines all the company’s innovations into one system, connected by a series of conveyors.
It eliminates a lot of the manual labor of moving plant material from one place to another. And the beauty of this system is that it can be customized based on the needs of each individual producer, whether they need automation just for trimming or to turn a finished crop into a retail-ready consumer product. It can also be built out modularly, as companies invest in one piece of equipment at a time — and it doesn’t even have to be all GreenBroz equipment.
“Some people like the way certain machines work and that’s fine,” Raichart says. “And there’s no reason that you can’t tie all those things together with some additional support in automation.”
However, the process of designing, developing and implementing a fully automated harvesting system is completely different than just buying a piece of equipment. It’s more of a long-term relationship, aimed at identifying the company’s needs and core competencies and then developing a solution to increase efficiency.
Model M Dry Trimmer
The Model M is probably the most well-known piece of equipment GreenBroz makes. The dry trimming machine is designed to mimic the act of hand trimming, while increasing speed and consistency. It’s capable of 8-12 pounds per hour because of its patented blade design.
ICTCAN PPE Remediator
As a veteran-owned company, CEO Cullen Raichart says GreenBroz is always willing to serve the country in a time of need. With the coronavirus pandemic straining first responders and medical professionals, GreenBroz began manufacturing the IGTCAN PPE Remediator, a cleaning machine that can safely and quickly remove pathogens from personal protective equipment and other fibrous materials using technology that is eco-friendly and requires no special disposal or handling requirements.
Alchemist Trichome Extractor
The Alchemist 215 and 420 Trichome Extractors complement the trimming process by capturing dry-sift, solvent-free extracts and kief. The machines can be operated as stand-alone units or with the addition of dry ice to provide the highest yield possible.
The first step in an automated harvesting process, this bucking machine removes flowers from stems at a rate of 4-6 pounds per hour. The 215 CannaGin also features a variable speed motor to fine-tune the process.
A result of a partnership between GreenBroz and Green Vault Systems, the Precision Batcher is an automated packaging system designed specifically for cannabis and powered by gentle, patented Air Kush Technology, as opposed to vibration.
A simple yet effective machine to sort buds by size, reducing both the staff time required in processing, as well as handling of the flowers. A digital user interface allows easy control of the sorting.
GreenBroz produced a concept video showing how an end-to-end system could work
“We did that to get people thinking, moving down that direction,” Raichart says. “This is a solution that you can think about that’s bigger than what you have right now, and we can help you get there.”
But high-tech automation is more than just transferring material from one piece of equipment to the next. It’s also about capturing data that can help fine-tune a producer’s operation. How much material was lost during this process? What was the final yield for one strain versus another?
“Those are things that very few people have a full, complete handle on right now, unless you have the right system in place and you use automated tools to gather that data,” Raichart says.
Growers and connoisseurs have often criticized machine trimming as an inferior method, but Raichart says the technology has come a long way since the early years of the “tumble-crumble” machines that gave automated systems their reputation.
“We changed that a lot with our machine because we feel it’s indistinguishable between hand trimming if you use it correctly,” he says.
But it’s also a different industry than the one from which the hand-trimming versus machine-trimming argument arose.
Producers in nearly every legal market are seeing diminishing returns as competition drives wholesale prices lower and slashes margins. It’s nearly impossible for a large-scale cultivator to trim exclusively by hand and remain competitive. Now, it’s more common for producers to use a combination of trimming methods. Maybe they’ll do the initial trimming by machine, then finish the buds by hand, or use machines for the majority of the crop and only hand-trim a select portion.
Another change is the role of the head grower. In the early days of legal cannabis, businesses revolved around the person in charge of the plants. Now, as companies have grown and the industry has expanded, growers are often department managers, while the entire business is overseen by corporate executives.
“They don’t make decisions the same way that a master grower makes decisions,” Raichart says. “They make decisions based on efficiencies and profits. They have to make decisions based on numbers. So that side of it is pushed down this track of automation as well.”
He also believes it’s critical that cannabis equipment is designed specifically for cannabis, rather than adapting or modifying equipment for another application. Because it’s such a high-value crop, precision weighing and packaging is hugely important. And cannabis, as a product, is vastly different than jellybeans or oranges.
“Cannabis is naked and raw; it doesn’t have protection,” Raichart says. “There’s no skin. There’s no rind. It has to be handled in its most delicate form, and you have all the trichomes and all the issues to deal with to keep the potency and quality where you want it.”
Raichart doesn’t just develop and sell automation equipment. It’s a practice he’s put into work at his own manufacturing plant in Nevada, increasing the company’s productivity while holding steady at just under 50 employees.
An engineer by trade, Raichart says he’s not looking for robots to replace people; instead, he’s looking for ways to maximize their potential. This year, for example, GreenBroz purchased a new, laser cutting machine that streamlines the manufacturing process and improves the company’s overall efficiency.
“The difference in our productivity is through the roof, because I have a piece of equipment that can run at night, unattended, and manages its own inventory,” he says. “I used to have two guys who would have to stop what they were doing and go load a sheet into the laser. It was all this nonessential labor that was wasting human talent, if you will, or potential, in my mind.”
He takes the same approach with GreenBroz clients.
“We look at efficiency,” he says. “We look at where we can gain time, where we can gain productivity, how we can reduce errors. We’re just building a more consistent and a better product with higher throughput.”
Raichart also takes great pride in GreenBroz equipment being American made. He estimates that about 96% of the parts and materials used are sourced from the United States, one of his big goals of building the company.
“We manufacture here, we sell here and we’re proud to be here,” he says.