Whispers of supply shortage abound as recreational pot legalization day approaches in Canada. Legalization date in that country is October 17th, and the major producers are looking for ways to get more marijuana to market.
Aphria Inc., a major Canadian pot producer, believes that machine automation will allow them to do so. The company, based in Leamington Ontario, has supply contracts in place with each of Canada’s provinces and the Yukon territory. It plans to supply roughly 20,000 kilograms of weed per month by the second quarter of 2019.
Legalization will test marijuana companies’ mettle
According to Aphria Inc.’s John Cervini, the company is innovating its operations, and automating production and packaging will be the key to reducing costs and maintain quality.
“It’s what’s made us the low-cost producer, helped us to maintain that low-cost producer status,” he told the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC).
Automated from the start
At the moment, the company is finalizing the process of automated marijuana plant grafting. This is the first step in growing the plant. A machine claw places cuttings from Aphria’s pot plants into dishes in which the new plants will grow.
The machines will increase production, as the company believes it will take 5 days to process 250,000 plant cuttings. This is in contrast to manual grafting, wherein 6 full-time employees can produce 15,000 cuttings a week. 3 machines can match that in 3 hours.
Job losses from robotic gains?
The company, which employs between 400 and 500 people, claims that automation won’t stop them from hiring qualified employees.
“Honestly we don’t see any actual job loss from the automation. What we’re going to see is maybe some re-purposing of jobs,” Cervini told the CBC.
Waiting on approval
The automated processes will require the OK of Health Canada gives them a green light. As such, the machines likely won’t be on-board before legalization day.
“If you look at what’s been accomplished in a very short period of time in Canada around regulations for cannabis, I have to do nothing but commend Health Canada.”
Aphria’s plans for automation cover other aspects of the business as well. Packaging and labeling are ripe for automation, as well as a trimming line. A robotic arm will carry out the latter, according to Cervini.