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Hand vs. Machine: Unveiling the Best Harvesting Techniques for Optimum Cannabis Yields

  • by Adan Perez

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Hand Harvesting
    • Pros of Hand Harvesting
    • Cons of Hand Harvesting
  3. Machine Harvesting
    • Pros of Machine Harvesting
    • Cons of Machine Harvesting
  4. Frequently Asked Questions
  5. Conclusion


The act of harvesting cannabis is an art as much as it is a science. This delicate phase in the cannabis cultivation journey can significantly influence the quality and quantity of the final yield. Cannabis harvesting is contingent upon various factors, including the strain, cultivation method, and the plant's maturity. Typically, cannabis plants necessitate a flowering period of 6 to 16 weeks before they are ready for harvest, with Indica strains generally maturing faster than Sativa strains. Outdoor cannabis crops are typically harvested once a year, with the optimal time falling between September and November.


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In contrast, indoor cannabis can be harvested in multiple stages or twice annually. The cannabis harvesting process involves cutting the plant stem at its base, followed by hanging the plant to dry. Once dried, the fan leaves are removed, and the buds are meticulously trimmed to ensure the highest quality product.

(Hanging Stem for a quicker and shorter dry process)

Cannabis Hanging on rails | Goldleaf

(Hanging the entire cannabis bush for a longer, slower dry process in order to preserve terpenes )

A man hanging a cannabis bush on a string | Goldleaf

There are a few ways to harvest cannabis, whether you trim wet buds, straight off the plant, or dry.  You can grow the best product in the world and think its going to come out perfect in the harvest phase, but if you don't know how to properly dry , cure, and trim the product, it can cost you in losing some or the entire harvest. EVERY GRAM COUNTS!!

"Drying can take anything from a few days to a couple of weeks. Never less than 4 days. The average time is somewhere around a week to 10 days. You will know that your plants are dry when branches and stems crack rather than bend between your fingers." -

Among growers, the debate over hand-harvesting versus machine-harvesting is lively, with no definitive answer. Both methods offer distinct advantages and disadvantages, and the choice ultimately hinges on the unique cultivation goals and capacities of each grower. This comprehensive article aims to explore the intricacies of both approaches to help cannabis cultivators make informed decisions.


Hand Harvesting

Hand harvesting stands as a time-honored tradition among cannabis growers and continues to be favored for several compelling reasons.

Hand Trimming Cannabis | Tierre | Goldleaf

Pros of Hand Harvesting

Precision: Hand harvesting allows for meticulous and precise cuts, enabling the preservation of the plant's overall quality. Trichomes, the resinous glands that house valuable cannabinoids and terpenes, are exceptionally delicate and can be preserved with utmost care.

Versatility: Hand harvesting grants cultivators the ability to engage in selective harvesting, where only the ripest buds are plucked while leaving the rest for further maturation. This technique not only enhances overall yield but also contributes to superior quality.

Lower Initial Investment: In contrast to machine harvesting, hand harvesting doesn't necessitate the acquisition of expensive machinery. This makes it a cost-effective choice, particularly for small-scale growers or hobbyists with limited budgets.

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Cons of Hand Harvesting

Time-Consuming: Hand harvesting can be labor-intensive and time-consuming, especially when dealing with large-scale grows. It demands a substantial amount of manpower, which can be a significant challenge for growers with limited resources.

Trimming Cannabis Flower by Hand| Goldleaf

Losing Time: When harvesting a large grow, “timing” is everything after you cut the bush from the ground and now hung (if thats the method you decided on). If you don't have enough trimmers to trim all of the material you have hanging, every day, every hour, every minute, can cost you every pound, every ounce, every gram. Plan accordingly in batches.  

Inconsistencies: The outcome of hand harvesting can be influenced by the skill level of the harvester. Inexperienced hands may lead to uneven results, affecting both yield and quality. In some cases, price. 


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Machine Harvesting

Machine harvesting has gained favor among commercial cannabis growers, primarily due to its efficiency and productivity. Let's dive into the advantages and drawbacks of this method.

Cannabis Trim Machine | Hand vs Machine | Goldleaf

Pros of Machine Harvesting

Efficiency: Machine harvesting excels at processing large quantities of cannabis in a relatively short time, an essential requirement for commercial growers catering to high demand markets.

Consistency: Machines offer a uniform cut, a crucial factor for products that demand consistency in size and appearance.


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Reduced Labor Costs: While the initial investment in machinery can be substantial, it can result in long-term savings on labor costs, particularly for large-scale operations where the cost-per-harvested-plant decreases with increased automation.


Cons of Machine Harvesting

High Initial Investment: The upfront cost of purchasing harvesting machinery can be prohibitive, especially for small-scale growers or those new to the cannabis industry.

Potential Quality Degradation: Machines can be somewhat rough on cannabis plants, potentially leading to trichome loss and the degradation of cannabinoids. However, advancements in machine technology aim to minimize these impacts.

All trimming machines are going to knock off some of the resin—on average of up to 10% of your total resin content. - HighTimes

Limited Versatility: Machines may struggle to perform selective harvesting as effectively as the human hand, which can be a significant limitation for cultivators seeking specific quality outcomes.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is hand harvesting or machine harvesting better for cannabis cultivation?

  • The choice between hand harvesting and machine harvesting depends largely on the scale of your operation and the desired quality of your product. Hand harvesting allows for greater precision and can help preserve trichomes, while machine harvesting is more efficient and consistent, making it more suitable for large-scale commercial operations.

Does machine harvesting damage the cannabis plant?

  • Machine harvesting can be a bit rougher on cannabis plants compared to hand harvesting. This might lead to some trichome loss, which can affect the quality of the final product. However, advancements in machinery are continually reducing this impact.

Can I switch between hand harvesting and machine harvesting?

  • Yes, some growers utilize a hybrid approach. For instance, you might do an initial machine harvest, followed by hand trimming to maintain a high-quality product.

What's the most cost-effective method of cannabis harvesting?

  • While hand harvesting requires less initial investment, it can be labor-intensive and time-consuming. On the other hand, machine harvesting requires a higher initial investment but can save on labor costs over time. It's essential to evaluate your operation's scale and labor availability when determining the most cost-effective method.

Can machines perform selective harvesting?

  • Machines are not as versatile as hand harvesting when it comes to selective harvesting. They generally cut the whole plant or branch at once, making it difficult to leave some buds for further maturation.

Does the choice of harvesting method affect the curing process?

  • The choice of harvesting method doesn't directly affect the curing process. However, the quality of the harvested buds, which can be influenced by the harvesting method, will impact the curing process and the final product quality.

How do I decide whether to invest in harvesting machinery?

  • Consider factors like the size of your operation, labor costs, desired product quality, and your budget. It may be beneficial to consult with industry peers or professionals before making significant investments.



Choosing between hand harvesting and machine harvesting in your cannabis cultivation journey isn't a one-size-fits-all decision. The optimal choice depends largely on the scale of your operation and your cultivation objectives.  In other words, what do you plan to do with the product after its dried, cured, and trimmed? Is it for pre-rolls, ⅛ jars, or extracts?  Hand harvesting shines when artisanal quality and precision are paramount, making it an excellent choice for small-scale growers. In contrast, machine harvesting becomes imperative for large-scale commercial cultivators striving to meet production targets efficiently. As with many aspects of cannabis cultivation, success hinges on finding the right balance to align with your unique needs and resources.

As you contemplate the hand versus machine harvesting dilemma, consider factors such as the size of your operation, labor costs, desired product quality, and your budget. It may also be beneficial to consult with industry peers or professionals before making significant investments in equipment. HAPPY HARVESTING!!



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Images belong to Terre di Cannabis, Twister Technologies



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