There are steps just about any grower can take to upgrade the efficiency of their plug transplanting line. And you don’t have to invest $150,000 in a new automated transplanter to do it. In fact, a basic set-up–a conveyor for hand-transplanting, a watering tunnel and a tagging machine–can improve the quality of the transplants and the efficiency of the process and lead to significant labor savings over a season.
Even the smallest growers can automate to some extent by having the material passing by on a conveyor as employees hand-transplant plugs into finish trays, says Rapid Automated’s Al Denning. “The belt speed sets the pace for the crew and they aren’t working on their own individual pace.”
Once the basics are in place, growers can increase their volume and continue to control labor costs by adding incremental pieces to the puzzle.
“One piece of automation at a time pays for the next,” says Mike Herring of Agrinomix. “The efficiency and savings from the first piece helps pay for the next, and so on. Success in the future requires growers to modify their production processes to become lean and efficient.”