Anyone Can Automate [opinion]

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Advanced Automation

And it seemed like a pretty timely topic. As we were putting together the March issue, there was a lot of buzz in Washington that immigration reform was suddenly a priority. It sounded like we might actually see movement toward changes that would benefit business in general and agriculture and ornamentals growers specifically.

Then came the sequester.

Public discussion of everything else came to a screeching halt, first for the lead up to the budget cuts, and then for the analysis and fallout of what it all means. With Congressional debate over the debt ceiling coming next, you’ll forgive me for being a little skeptical that meaningful immigration reform is coming any time soon.

Find Opportunities For Efficiency

So in the meantime, what are you going to do? Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to have an abundance of great people available to perform the tasks you need to get done every day during a busy spring season. Many growers aren’t so lucky.

But whether you’re fully staffed or not, every grower, regardless of size, should be considering automation of some kind.

I know a lot of you think of “automation” of your production lines or greenhouses as something that’s only an option for bigger growers, but that’s not necessarily the case. We tried to uncover some realistic automation options for everyone in this issue of Greenhouse Grower.

A $200,000 planter isn’t the only way to go about finding labor savings in your operation. Something as simple as a conveyor can add efficiency to a planting line for a small grower who’s still doing most tasks by hand. Areas like heating, cooling, irrigation and lighting — and many others — can also be done more efficiently and cost-effectively with a few very simple adjustments.

Still aren’t convinced? Take a look at the “Automate Simple Greenhouse Tasks” feature for some steps you can take now to improve your operation. And “How To Automate At Any Size” highlights new labor-saving and -enhancing equipment from pot fillers to transplanters.

Maybe by the time you’re reading this, the political tides have turned once again and real progress is being made to help you get the staff you need. But even the most expedient legislation won’t come in time to help you this season, or probably next.

Take a few minutes to walk through your facilities and look for opportunities to make your operation run more efficiently. Whether it’s a new planting line or a timer on a lighting controller, you’ll be making an investment in your business.

Richard Jones is the group editor for Greenhouse Grower and Today's Garden Center magazines.
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