Why spend hours hunched over a table nudging buds into baggies when you could get a robot to do it for you?
This is the idea behind BudBot, the cannabis packaging robot invented by Seattle entrepreneur Steve Chandler.
The machine, which officially hit the market in early August, purports to “automatically weigh, sort and pack cannabis buds” and increase cannabis processors’ productivity by “up to two hundred percent.”
The robot includes state-of-the-art light curtains for operator safety, performance reporting, and only requires one person to operate – which Chandler claims can reduce costs “up to sixty percent.”
It’s a tall order, but Chandler – whose resume includes high-profile stints at companies like Starbucks, Frito Lay and Kellogg – is confident BudBot can meet it. The machine was developed, after all, following ample research with cannabis processors and the exhaustive efforts of seven engineers.
“I contacted cannabis processors in the Washington State area with the simple question of, ‘what is your pain point in processing and packaging cannabis flower?’ They all mentioned the tedious, brain-straining activity of packaging the small-gram bags,” Chandler told Civilized of the product’s conception.
“Cannabis is so delicate and varies so much in density and size that you can’t just cram it into equipment designed for other products like tea or coffee and expect it to come out in a reasonable form that consumers will pay top-dollar for."
“The cannabis industry needed this professional and mature way of processing... so I conceived of the robotic method to do it, pulled together a team of engineers and six months later we had a prototype. A few months after that, we went to market.”
In the few weeks that BudBot has been reaching consumers across the U.S., Chandler said the feedback has been “amazing”, with processors reporting the proof in their savings.
This is partially due to the robot’s ‘SmartSort’ function, said Chandler, which allows processors to achieve maximum yield and number of packages closest to package weight, while staying above the essential minimum package weight.
It’s a challenge unique to the cannabis industry, he said.
“Since cannabis is such a highly valuable product, many consumers weigh [bags] themselves to check how much they actually got. If they feel like they’ve been ripped off, there’s a chance they’ll head to social media and lambast the business. This results in processors generally over-shooting quite a bit when filling bags,” said Chandler.
“Utilizing the maximum packaging capacity of BudBot, processors could save up to $30,000/month on packaging costs due to reduced labor and giveaway.”
While at least some level of public outcry is expected anytime a robot waltzes in and takes somebody’s job, Chandler said that hasn’t been the case as far as he’s aware.
“It’s redefining process and shifting resources to more value-added activities, so instead of having employees package grams thousands of times a week, those people are able to add more value by helping develop better strains, better marketing, better products,” said Chandler. “Ultimately it’s going to be about profitability and growth of the industry, and hopefully the development of healthier businesses.”