A German cannabis flower harvester is said to drastically reduce costs and speed up cannabis cultivation.
German developer, HHH Hemp Harvesting Technology, said a cost analysis of field work in Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg in autumn 2020, showed the company’s cannabis flower stripper reduced labor costs by 73 percent, when compared to traditional hand harvesting.
The model in question, the HHH 700, also cut down on the number of staff from 15 to only four workers required to run the harvester in “semi-stationary” operation.
The data is based on a system in which workers collect and then hand feed bushy plant stalks into the harvester’s stripper mechanism as a tractor moves the unit from one spot to the next in the field.
The HHH 700 can also operate stationary in farm buildings for indoor and greenhouse growers and can collect flowers from conventionally planted, straight-stem industrial hemp varieties while running through the field continuously.
The machine gently detaches cannabis flowers from the stalk and stems by a patented stripping mechanism. The flowers can then be collected in a bag or container.
In field operation mode for harvesting traditional hemp plants, the hemp stalks are left in the field for retting, but depending on plant maturity at the time of harvesting, it’s also possible to shake out the seeds.
“With industrial hemp we were 20 times faster than hand harvesting,” developer Heinrich Wieker said of the technology’s performance running through hemp fields last autumn.
“With the bushy plants, it’s 12 times faster than picking the plants by hand.”
Wieker estimates the HHH reduces the time required for harvesting one bushy cannabis plant – hemp or cannabis buds – from three to five minutes to roughly 30 to 50 seconds.
Wieker, an engineer, started developing the machine after observing the laborious process of hand harvesting hemp flowers during a visit to the Czech Republic in 2015.
The visit left him not only “fascinated with the possibilities of hemp”, but with the realisation that expansion of the cannabis flower sectors is inhibited by the lack of a suitable harvester for small and medium size hemp farms, and the need to move beyond hand-harvesting to more economically viable harvesting methods.
Following four years in development, the HHHarvester was named winner of the European Industrial Hemp Association’s Hemp Product of the Year in June 2020.
Designed to be efficient for conventionally planted hemp and cannabis grows as small as five hectares (12.3 acres), the standard single-unit HHH can harvest up to two hectares (4.95 acres) per day in industrial hemp and 0.5 to one hectares (1.25 to 2.5 acres) in bushy crops
Wieker, who worked closely with manufacturing partner Eilhauer, a German specialised machine maker, in bringing the harvester to life, added: “Existing flower harvesters weigh 18 tons, cost more than €600,000, consume enormous amounts of fuel and are difficult to transport over longer distances.”
After starting manufacturing and construction of the HHH-700 with a focus on the European market, the company is now ready to address demand that has developed in the USA in 2021, Wieker said.
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