Visser Horti Systems has announced a partnership with Ball Horticultural in which Ball will become the exclusive owner of Visser’s new AutoStix technology in the U.S. The AutoStix program will be made available to the international market during the Visser Open Days, which take place June 12-16 in The Netherlands.
Trials in the U.S. have been very promising, with more than 5 million cuttings automatically stuck at rooting stations, according to a press release from Visser, which claims that AutoStix “provides many different advantages for the grower: a better consistency and uniformity with shipped cuttings, easier and more reliable counting, automatic transplanting, better uniformity, and the option for buffering in the peak seasons.”
The system consists of a newly developed and patented transplanter and a compatible special patented strip and tray that complete the system and create a turnkey concept. Autostix is based on the newly developed Visser Strip. The cuttings that are being harvested from the mother stock can directly be sticked in the Autostix.
Autostix is a biodegradable product. The strip has been designed to enhance and guide the development of the root system. The strip can hold cuttings with different stem diameters, yet still positions the stems firmly without damaging the soft tissue. The strip is available in two types: one strip can hold 51 cuttings, and the other can hold 34 cuttings. The system works best on 102 counts (either 51×2=102 or 34×3=102).
The cuttings can be shipped at a high density, while still providing an air space for each individual stem, due to the design of the strip. This enhances quality in the process.
The nursery that receives the cuttings can then use Autostix to automatically transplant the cuttings. The strips go in the machine and the machine cuts off each cell and transplants both the biodegradable cell and the plant in the new plug, pot, or tray. Because of the biodegradable character of the strip, the cell will degrade over time.
Autostix opens the opportunity to transplant big and leafy plants without damaging the leaves with traditional grippers, according to Visser. The cutting device in the machine does not touch the leaves. The special gripper will pick up the plant by the cell and not in the cell, as occurs in traditional systems.
The transplanter has multiple infeeds for singulated strips. The machine can run both available strips by adjusting the settings on the user-friendly Siemens touch screen. The production capacity is up to 10,000 cuttings per hour, per six-head strip-planter machine. The machine can plant three different modules for mixed liners in a 50-millimeter liner. The machine can also automatically plant labels in the strip.
AutoStix offers the following advantages, according to Visser:
• Peak seasons: AutoStix helps growers get the job done in the 10 to 12 weeks during peak season when millions of cuttings need to get stuck.
• Counting: The strip makes counting cuttings easier. Workers can immediately see that they’ve got 34 or 51 cuttings in a strip, which means no more short or overfilled bags.
• Uniformity: Using Autostix provides growers with optimal plant uniformity. A visual check during the loading of the strip is easy. Later in the process, when transplanting, each plant is being planted at the exact same depth, which enhances the uniform growth of cuttings.
• Buffering: Once the plants arrive at the grower, each strip can be positioned in a small layer of water. The stem will be in a film of water and the rest of the plant will stay dry. Plants can be stored like this over a specific period of time. This helps break the transplanting peaks at the grower.
• Labor: The AutoStix machine removes the challenge of finding and training a workforce to stick the cuttings at the rooting stations where seasonal staff is more difficult to find than in offshore locations. Due to the standardized process, less labor is required.