We’d like to share an interview with Paul Murdoch, the owner of Horn Creek Hemp. Paul gives us his insights on how to maximize profit through harvest automation. If you are growing your crop outdoors, you’ll want to check this out!
Have a Harvest Plan
“What it all comes down to is, how am I going to harvest and dry this? If you don’t get that right, all the other stuff is a waste.”- Paul Murdoch
You’ve researched genetics, planted your chosen strain, dialed-in your irrigation system, and have a handle on pest mitigation. While these factors are all important to your success, one of the last steps is the most critical: If you don’t have a plan to get the plants out of the ground and your flowers bucked, dried, and stored properly, you risk losing an entire season’s crop.
The use of bucking machines gives growers more control and adds many advantages over labor-intensive hand bucking. We’ll cover more of these advantages below.
Minimize Labor Cost and Know Your Harvest Rate
“I find a steady daily pace to be vastly preferable to inefficient and labor-intense pushes. It also keeps us a little more sane.”- Paul Murdoch
If you want consistent daily harvest rates and predictable labor costs, automation is key. The use of bucking machines facilitates a much smaller workforce while drastically increasing throughput per day. At the Horn Creek Hemp farm, their automated process resulted in three main benefits:
1) Labor Savings
Instead of hiring and managing 20-30 workers, Paul hired a small dedicated team of 4-6, running 2 machines. This equates to saving 80% on labor costs. That is real-world labor savings of almost $2,000 per day, which effectively paid for his two Mother Buckers in only 20 days and, another $50k saved on labor for the remaining 25 days of his 45-day harvest.
2) Consistent Harvest Rate
The machines set the work pace, which helps deliver a consistent rate of harvest. In Paul’s case, his team was able to get about200 pounds per-hour, per machine. Knowing your average hourly & daily throughput allows you to plan the rest of your process accordingly, avoiding bottlenecks and work stoppages.
3) Harvest Timeline
With quantifiable labor savings and consistent daily throughput numbers, the use of a bucker helps you “do the math” on the size of your harvest toaccurately estimate how long it will take, and how much it will cost. This information promotes more accurate planning and budgeting, which is always an advantage, especially in a competitive market.
Increase Profit by Maximizing CBD
“Our focus was to maximize profit. We had to create a product that was really attractive to buyers. So we bucked everything.” “It’s absolutely critical to have a good product visually” - Paul Murdoch
High CBD content is key for maximizing profit with your crop. If you use a combine to harvest, you’ll savage trichome retention and dilute your product. This limits your product’s sales potential to only a single market; low-quality biomass.
Hand or machine bucking opens up the market for your product. Smokable flower, pre-rolls, premium CBD extraction and tincture/salve/edible products are just a few options in this quickly expanding market. In Paul’s case, he wasable to get up to 10 times the price others were getting, all because of the high quality of his bucked material.
Hand Bucking -vs- Automated Bucking
As we discussed above, the most obvious downside with hand bucking is the labor cost, however, there are other disadvantages; Hand bucking creates inconsistent quality and less predictable harvest rates.
If you’ve ever bucked by hand, you know how physically demanding it is. As workers naturally tire, the quality of the bucked flower goes down and so does the throughput rate. Over a month-plus long harvest, worker attrition becomes an issue as workers can develop overuse/repetition injuries.
As worker pay, protection, and safety issues become more of a concern, the adoption of a smaller, dedicated harvest team using a mechanical bucker is proving to be the most effective solution.
The Bottom Line: Increased Profitability
Profitability is what it’s all about. Without a doubt, the most cost-efficient way to reduce labor expenses, predict throughput, and increase profitability is to automate your harvest process with a bucking machine. If you aren't familiar with how they work and want to see how gentle a Mother Bucker is on your flower, check out these videos: Wet bucking -or-Dry bucking
If you have more interest in Horn Creek Hemp, you can check out their blog here.