Growers are creating improvements in a range of functions with customized plant handling systems. Several growers have realized efficiencies through customized conveyor solutions, by working with Cherry Creek Systems, based in Colorado Springs, CO, to install its Echo-Veyor cable-driven transport system. Designed to support multiple different tray types and pot sizes, each system is custom-designed for the individual needs of the operation. It can tie into existing posts or be built into a free-standing system.
The Echo-Veyor system has helped growers like Dallas Johnson Greenhouses and Rockwell Farms increase efficiency of product handling in a variety of functions, ultimately reducing time, labor, and labor costs, and improving job functions for employees working on spacing plants, pulling and processing orders, and shipping.
Dallas Johnson Greenhouses in Council Bluffs, IA, reduced labor, saved time, improved its team’s performance, and saw improved plant quality at retail after installing its Echo-Veyor shipping system, says President and CEO Todd Johnson. Each of the belts on the shipping system is about 22 inches wide by 45 feet long, and there are 330 belts, which can each hold about 75 trays. The system is 396 feet long from beginning to end, so the operation can have as many as 150 skus on it at one time.
The first season in use was spring 2015, and to streamline order processing, the operation has a night crew load the system based on orders for the following day. The next morning, orders are processed in significantly less time, generally ending around 6:30 p.m., versus midnight or later without the system.
“It does two things: it reduces your cost for shipping, and makes it more efficient with precise pulling,” Johnson says. “Every time we pull the orders correctly, there are fewer substitutions and more effective labor. The system makes my employees’ jobs easier, and it’s easier to retain employees in that area.”
One of the unexpected benefits of installing the system was improved quality of shipments to retail, Johnson says.
“Quality has improved because before, we used all of our resources just to get the material out the door,” he says. “Now we only use about 80% of our resources, and the other 20% are doing jobs that we normally wouldn’t have gotten done.”
Rockwell Farms in Rockwell, NC, has a series of 400-foot-long Echo-Veyors in its newer retractable roof Cravo greenhouse, and an 800-foot-long Echo-Veyor in its 12-acre outside growing area. The systems are each connected to an overhead irrigation boom, which helps in a number of ways, says Manager Bryan Abramowski.
The Echo-Veyor system has eased labor by reducing bending and repetitive motion involved in spacing plants under the overhead boom, as well as during shipping.
“The system allows us to very easily ship from any location in that boom’s range without having to move plants around to pull carts into place,” Abramowski says. “If we need to get the red petunias that are 650 feet in, we are able to load people onto the boom, ride out to that product, and begin pulling immediately.”
Since Rockwell installed the system three years ago, it has reduced labor for spacing and shipping by three times less labor. The system now requires five people running the belt, once the carts have been brought out, and it also keeps the team working efficiently, Abramowski says.
“It has saved on the intensity of the labor for our people, but the system also sets the pace for the work, he says. “The team running the system has to keep up with the Echo-Veyor, so there cannot be any slacking off or slowing down. It is not hard to keep up with the system but it makes the work continuous and consistent.”
The fact that the booms are rideable and easy to get on and off also allows growers to monitor the crop from overhead for pests or any other issues.
“The booms themselves have also made our lives easier from a watering perspective, as we no longer have to deal with movement of drip tapes during our warm months,” Abramowski says.
For more information on Echo-Veyor, visit the Cherry Creek Systems website.