Transplanting multiple commodities: a demo of the versatile PlantTape system

Transplanting multiple commodities: a demo of the versatile PlantTape system

One of the many benefits of the PlantTape automated transplanting system is its versatility in handling a variety of commodity types. For growers that grow multiple commodities, this versatility proves invaluable. PlantTape gives growers the ability to have a single transplanter that can plant almost every commodity in their farming program

The PlantTape multi-crop field demonstration

PlantTape recently did a field demo to showcase the versatile nature of our system. We loaded six different commodities into our transplanter and planted them all simultaneously.

The commodities we chose for the demonstration were: romaine lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, leeks, broccoli, and cilantro.  Prior to planting, each crop was sown at one of the sowing lines in Hollister, California

After 30-45 days in the greenhouse, the seedlings of each of the six commodities were brought to the PlantTape demonstration field near our Salinas, CA headquarters. A PlantTape 3-point transplanter was loaded up with all six commodities, with a line of each commodity corresponding to a planting module for a six-line bed configuration.

As can be seen in our demonstration video, the transplanter planted all six commodities at the same time without a hitch.

Although this is unconventional, the commodities grew well together for 8 weeks until the bed became overcrowded with the different crop types. 

Planting Six Different Crops Simultaneously - PlantTape Automated Transplanting System

Multiple crops loaded into the PlantTape automated transplanter

 

Switching between crops with PlantTape

PlantTape’s simultaneous planting of six different commodities was purely a showcase of how crop-agnostic our system is. While a grower will almost certainly not need to plant diverse crops simultaneously, many growers will need to plant different crops consecutively. PlantTape allows them to do so with unprecedented ease.

Changing plant-to-plant (or in-row) spacing.

PlantTape offers growers a way to change the pant to plant spacing with ease via a simple touch screen computer located on the side of the planter. Spacing can even be changed while the planter is running if the operator chooses.

 

Planting Six Different Crops Simultaneously - PlantTape Automated Transplanting System

Six different commodities planted into the same bed with the PlantTape system

Planting consecutive commodities with different bed configurations

If two commodities have different bed configurations—for example, onions and broccoli—then a grower will need to make simple some mechanical adjustments to our automated transplanter.

Line-to-line spacing can be altered in the field with standard hand tools in a matter of minutes. Planting lines can be added or removed by raising or lowering planting modules via a valve on the planting module cylinder.

If a crew is planting 6 lines of onions on a 72” bed and needs to switch to 2 lines of broccoli on a 36” bed, they would load the broccoli seedlings into the transplanter, raise up the two middle planting modules to take them out of action, and make any desired line-to-line adjustments. After a short time, they’re back in business, planting two 36” rows of broccoli at a 72” wheelbase.

Unprecedented transplanting flexibility

Compared to other transplanters, which are often manufactured with fixed bed configurations and designed for a specific commodity, the PlantTape automated transplanting system brings unprecedented versatility to growers of vegetables, tomatoes, and hemp.

Commodity-to-commodity versatility is only one of the many ways PlantTape empowers growers. As we showcased last month, the PlantTape system also offers flexibility in when to plant seedlings.

To learn more about PlantTape, or to request a field demo, contact sales@planttape.com or call +1 (888) 272-6828

PlantTape’s approach to customer service

PlantTape’s approach to customer service

Adjusting PlantTape automated transplanter

From the beginning, PlantTape has prioritized customer service. When our growers face challenges, we make it a priority to help them.

“I’ve been impressed with knowledge brought to the table by the PlantTape team, they always know what to do over the phone. Really appreciate the customer support. Anytime we have a question there is always an immediate response.” Bryan Knepper, operations manager, Rothert Farms, Okeechobee, Florida

When growers contact us for support, their issue typically falls into one of two categories: agronomy-related, or equipment-related.

Agronomic customer support

The PlantTape system is designed to integrate into existing growing operations with a minimum of disruption. PlantTape does, however, introduce specific tolerances, and growers sometimes have questions.

For example, an onion grower might wonder about the timing of mowing onions with the PlantTape system, or a greenhouse operator might have a question about recommended railing systems. Growers might want to ask about recommended fertilizer programs, or any number of other agricultural queries.

PlantTape’s Vice President of Agriculture and Sales, Hunter Smith, has a PhD in Agronomy and Weed Science from the University of Florida and is available to respond to all agronomy-related questions, and to help growers thrive with the PlantTape system. In addition to helping customers navigate specific challenges, Dr. Smith also offers advice, tips, and tricks for maximizing agricultural output with the system.

Equipment-related customer support

PlantTape’s mechanical design makes it one of the most user-friendly automated transplanters on the market. To help our customers minimize disruption and frustration, PlantTape’s customer service representatives and engineers are available 24/7 to respond to any issues that arise.

Whether a grower needs advice on rebuilding their planting modules at the end of the season or is having a bit of trouble changing line-to-line spacing, the PlantTape team is a video call away to keep our customers operational.

Setting the standard for agricultural customer service

PlantTape 3-point automated transplanter in the field

PlantTape 3-point automated

transplanter in the field

PlantTape believes that concierge customer service is the only way to do business. When our growers thrive, we thrive. That’s why we are passionate about our growers’ success and immediately respond to any questions or concerns they may have.

To learn more about PlantTape or to request a demo of our automated transplanting system, visit our contact page, or call (888) 272-6828

Planting tomatoes in the Ohio heat

Planting tomatoes in the Ohio heat

PlantTape conducts a successful tomato planting trial in Ohio

On May 20, 2021, PlantTape conducted a tomato transplanting trial in Northwest Ohio. Planting in the heat, and with no irrigation, PlantTape successfully planted 3 acres of tomato seedlings, using sub-surface water injection to the plant roots.

Tomato seedlings just planted, Northwestern Ohio
Trays of tomato seedlings ready for transplanting

Quality Tomato Transplants

Jason Kelly of S.A.L.’s Vegetable Transplants was PlantTape’s nursery partner for the trial. He grew a uniform, hardened-off tomato plant perfect for Ohio’s hot conditions and also for the PlantTape automated transplanting system, which favors a shorter, stockier tomato seedling.

Planting tomatoes with underground water injection

For the transplanting trial, a hydraulic pump injected water below-ground from two tractor-mounted tanks. A hose attached to a nipple on the hollow planting shoe allowed for water to be delivered directly to each seedling’s roots.
Using 400 gallons to the acre, the water was injected directly to each plant’s root zone, creating a good seal and minimizing evaporation. The transplants were able to establish quickly and start growing.
In the five days immediately after the planting, temperatures remained high and the plants received no additional water. No wilting was observed, and all plants remained vibrant. On the sixth day, it rained.

The PlantTape system proven for no-irrigation tomato transplanting

Considering that much of the American Midwest does not utilize irrigation in tomato agriculture, PlantTape needed to demonstrate planting viability for no-irrigation tomato growing operations. Our May tomato trial did just that, showing that tomato seedlings remain hardy for several days post-planting due to our delivery of water to the seedling root zone.

Previous PlantTape tomato trials in California had already proven the viability of the PlantTape system for tomato agriculture with irrigation; now, its viability for planting tomatoes in the absence of irrigation has been demonstrated.
S.A.L’s Vegetable Transplants cultivated tomato seedlings ideal for the PlantTape automated transplanting system
Transplanting seedlings on a flexible schedule: PlantTape gives growers logistical freedom

Transplanting seedlings on a flexible schedule: PlantTape gives growers logistical freedom

One of the many benefits of the PlantTape automated transplanting system logistical flexibility to growers and greenhouse operators. Specifically, PlantTape seedlings can be planted at any time after the sowing process.

With conventional transplanting, plants and roots must be sufficiently developed to withstand being manually pulled from celled nursery trays. A transplant that is pulled too early can be damaged or destroyed.

Because PlantTape places transplants into the ground with minimal human touch and without disturbing the roots, seedlings can be planted at any time after sowing. Whether the seedling is at the cotyledon stage or with 5 true leaves, the PlantTape planting modules cut the tape between plants and place each into the soil, while the tape material protects and encapsulates the delicate roots. 

Advantages to growers of the PlantTape system

Produce markets and weather conditions are volatile and PlantTape’s versatility gives growers the ability to adapt planting schedules to navigate unpredictable events.

Potential planting scenarios and the PlantTape advantage

For example, a broccoli grower might have 20-day old seedlings in the greenhouse when she gets notice that two weeks of rain are moving in. With conventional methods, broccoli plants are too young and fragile to be pulled from their trays at 20 days, so the grower has no choice but to plant in the mud after the storm.

With the PlantTape system, in contrast, the grower can adjust her planting schedule to get the broccoli transplants into the ground before the rain arrives. The seedlings get the advantage of all the rain, and the workers won’t be potentially rained out, and don’t have to plant in the mud.

Planttape trays with seedlings at different ages

 

To use another example, a celery grower has 45-day old seedlings in the greenhouse when he learns that part of his crew is moving on in a week, leaving him short-staffed. (Read how PlantTape reduces transplanting labor requirements by 80% here).

Given the scarcity of skilled agricultural labor, the grower can’t hire more employees in time, and his celery is too young to plant immediately with conventional methods.

Again, PlantTape to the rescue. The grower decides to plant before the workers depart, and PlantTape handles the young celery seedlings just fine.

 

Six different stages of transplants from 1 week to 6 weeks old

A demonstration with romaine seedlings of different ages

To demonstrate PlantTape’s ability to transplant seedlings at almost any maturation stage, we recently loaded our transplanter with six lines of romaine, each line being a different aged plant, and planted it near Salinas, CA.

On the far left, a line of romaine sown one week prior, with cotyledons barely sprouting. On the far right, a line of romaine at 6 weeks with 4-5 true leaves and three-inch tall plants. In between were lines of romaine at 2, 3, 4, and 5 weeks.

As seen in the YouTube video, the PlantTape planting modules had no issue precisely placing each seedling into the soil, regardless of developmental stage.

When we checked in on the 6 lines two weeks (?) after planting, all seedlings were thriving. 

To learn more about PlantTape, or to request a field demo, contact sales@planttape.com or call +1 (888) 272-6828

PlantTape Announces Key Leadership Promotions

PlantTape Announces Key Leadership Promotions

Lance Portman takes on role as President of PlantTape and Hunter Smith promoted to Vice President of Agriculture & Sales

Lance Portman is the new President of PlantTape

Lance Portman is the new President of PlantTape

SALINAS, Ca. (June 22, 2021) –   PlantTape®, an automated transplanting system, announced today the promotion of Lance Portman to President and Hunter Smith to Vice President of Agriculture & Sales.  The two key promotions will provide the innovative company with ample support for continued growth within the United States and globally.

“Both Lance and Hunter joined our PlantTape team at a pivotal time of growth and have been there every step of the way during PlantTape’s commercialization,” said Brian Antle, prior President of PlantTape.  “Their combined knowledge, leadership skills and in depth understanding of the agriculture industry as well as PlantTape system, will continue to take this innovative company far into the future.”

Brian Antle previously served as PlantTape's President

Brian Antle previously served as PlantTape’s President

Portman joined the forward thinking PlantTape team in 2018 as Vice President of Engineering.  Prior to joining PlantTape, he held several leadership positions that spanned across the United States, Canada, Indonesia, and Singapore.  Portman held numerous roles during his 14-year tenure at BJ Services Company, which included Technical Advisor and Director of Research & Engineering Coiled Tubing.  He additionally served as Vice President of Coiled Tubing & Cementing at Baker Hughes Incorporated and Vice President of Marketing at Cormorant Engineering LLC.  In his new role as President of PlantTape, Portman will oversee all operations and drive the company’s success in transforming the automated transplanting for vegetable, tomato, hemp and other crops.

“PlantTape is a fantastic, labor and money saving technology that is yet to reach its full potential across all applications. I am honored for the chance to take on this key leadership role within PlantTape, and the opportunity to make this the most successful and accepted transplanting system globally,” said Portman.  “I look forward to forming new partnerships with growers, and pledge to continue to give our existing customers the best service possible.”

Hunter Smith has been promoted to VP of Agriculture and Sales

Hunter Smith has been promoted to VP of Agriculture and Sales

Hunter Smith, Ph.D., joined PlantTape in 2018 as the company’s Director of Agronomy.  Smith received his bachelor’s degree from Arkansas State University and attended graduate school at the University of Florida.  He completed his doctorate program in Agronomy there in 2016.  Prior to his current role at PlantTape, Smith performed field research, developed pesticide programs, and optimized growing practices for Generation Farms in Southeast Georgia.  In his new role as Vice President of Agriculture & Sales, Smith will continue to oversee the agronomic studies of PlantTape while taking on the management of the company’s sales team.

“With significant labor shortages on the farm, automation is taking over the agricultural industry.  PlantTape is leading the automation revolution and I’m excited to continue working for such an innovative company,” said Smith.  “We’ve made great progress over the last few years and I look forward to PlantTape becoming the dominant transplanting technology around the world.”

About PlantTape

PlantTape is an automated transplanting system

PlantTape is an automated transplanting system

PlantTape is an automated transplanting system that is ideal for agricultural producers aiming for increased efficiency and productivity. The system is more efficient than the conventional transplanting method and offers a fully integrated system from sowing the tape, to germination and nursery care, to transplanting in the field. PlantTape is commercially used to transplant vegetables, tomatoes, hemp and other crops.

A PlantTape automated transplanter in the field

A PlantTape automated transplanter in the field

Rothert Farm increases lettuce yield, cuts transplanting costs with PlantTape

Rothert Farm increases lettuce yield, cuts transplanting costs with PlantTape

Rothert Farm Inc. grows produce in Ohio and Florida. The Rothert family has been farming for more than 100 years, and, 4 years ago, Rothert Farm started using the PlantTape automated transplanting system for their 1100-acre iceberg lettuce growing operation in Florida.

“PlantTape does 100% of our lettuce,” says Jake Rothert, a 6th-generation Rothert grower. “We’re currently looking at working it into our other commodities.”

Rothert Farm Inc.

Jake Rothert and Tracy Dresser showing a lettuce seedling in its PlantTape soil plug within the biodegradable tape. Rothert Farm, Inc., Okeechobee, FloridaWhen Rothert Farm first heard about PlantTape, they were intrigued by our claims to cut transplanting labor costs by 80% while increasing planting precision and crop yield.

Agricultural labor challenges

Like many growers, Rothert Farm faces a labor problem: higher labor costs and increased labor scarcity. “Over the last 10 years,” Jake says, “our labor costs have more than doubled.”

Even with higher wages, Jake explains, finding workers to fill agricultural positions is becoming increasingly difficult.

(The farm labor shortage is widespread and is one of the reasons PlantTape’s automated transplanting system is so relevant to agricultural producers.)

Inconsistent lettuce stands

Jake also struggled with inconsistent lettuce stands. As lettuce growers everywhere know, seed planting is challenging. Especially in extreme weather conditions such as Jake faced in South Florida, “planting on the tail end of hurricane season.”

Jake was achieving, at best, 75% germination. And the 75% of seed that germinated did so in random, inconsistent patterns, leaving him with poor lettuce stands and the need for a thinning crew.

Adopting the PlantTape automated transplanting system

Rothert Farm implemented PlantTape’s system in 2017. When asked how easy or difficult the adoption phase was, Jake Rothert noted that “with any new technology there’s going to be a learning curve,” but added that “I did feel very well supported by the PlantTape team as we learned the system.”

Jake understood that PlantTape was not just our automated transplanter, but an entire system that included sowing, nursery operations, and transplanting, and that he’d need to make some adjustments to Rothert’s operations. Fortunately, those adjustments were relatively easy.

 

Lettuce transplanting operations with the PlantTape automatic transplanter, Rothert Farms Inc., Okeechobee, Florida

Lettuce transplanting operations with the PlantTape automatic transplanter, Rothert Farms Inc., Okeechobee, Florida

 

“Once we did understand the entire system,” he says, “we were able to make small changes to both our greenhouse and growing operations.”

Bryan Knepper, operations manager for Rothert Farm Inc, admits he “was brought up with conventional planting” and that “there was a learning process” to integrate the PlantTape system. After undergoing said learning process, “operating and working on the machine is very easy,” he says of the PlantTape 3-point automatic planter.

As a result of adopting the PlantTape automated transplanting system, Rothert Farm Inc. iceberg lettuce production gained dramatic efficiencies.

Iceberg lettuce production improvements with PlantTape

After implementing the PlantTape system in its Florida iceberg lettuce growing operation, Rothert Farm Inc. enjoyed increased crop yield, lower seed costs, reduced greenhouse space usage, and lower labor requirements.

 

 

 

Iceberg lettuce seedlings in PlantTape on plant nursery tray in greenhouse, Rothert Farm Inc, Okeechobee Florida

Iceberg lettuce seedlings in PlantTape on plant nursery tray in greenhouse, Rothert Farm Inc, Okeechobee Florida

 

80% reduction in transplanting labor

Consistent with what PlantTape sees across all growers, Rothert Farm was able to cut labor requirements by 80% for their lettuce transplanting operation. Jake confirms that PlantTape allowed him to reduce lettuce planting crew size “from roughly 15 to 16 people down to 3.”

The PlantTape automated transplanter requires 1 to 2 workers in the back to keep the planter modules running smoothly. With the tractor driver included, the total labor requirements for operating a PlantTape transplanter are 2-3 employees.

Better crop yield

The PlantTape automated transplanter features a hydraulic drive that allows for unprecedented precision in spacing plants. This delivers a high degree of uniformity in plant stands. Combine that with our precision sowing and nursery operations, and PlantTape gives growers a recipe for increased crop yield.

 

The success of PlantTape in Rothert’s iceberg lettuce program has led them to experiment with other crops, such as romaine, pictured here

The success of PlantTape in Rothert’s iceberg lettuce program has led them to experiment with other crops, such as romaine, pictured here

 

Whereas before Jake was getting lettuce germination rates of 70-75%, PlantTape brought the germination rate up to 93-95%. With greater stand uniformity plus higher germination rates, Rothert Farm Inc. saw a 15% increase in iceberg lettuce yield from implementing the PlantTape automated transplanting system.

Reduced seed and thinning costs

With PlantTape’s precision planting, Jake notes, he’s been able to “greatly reduce” seed costs and also costs associated with thinning the lettuce stands.

Pre-PlantTape, Jake’s planting crew was throwing large amounts of seed into the harsh environment of the South Florida post-hurricane season and hoping for the best. With PlantTape’s precision sowing and germination process, his lettuce seed costs went down significantly.

Better greenhouse efficiency with PlantTape

PlantTape enables more efficient plant nursery operations because of our denser plant spacing and shorter greenhouse growing cycle.

“We’re able to produce our transplants in a much smaller area in the greenhouse,” Jake confirms, “compared to conventional transplants.”

Jason Kelly, owner of S.A.L.’s Transplants, LLC, confirms the plant nursery benefits of the PlantTape system. S.A.L.’s handles nursery operations for Rothert Farms, and Jason says PlantTape enabled him “to double nursery production, due to increased plant density and shorter growing cycles.”

 

PlantTape doubled plant nursery productivity for S.A.L.’s Vegetable Transplants, LLC for iceberg lettuce production in their Okeechobee, Florida greenhouse

PlantTape doubled plant nursery productivity for S.A.L.’s Vegetable Transplants, LLC for iceberg lettuce production in their Okeechobee, Florida greenhouse

 

Remarkably, S.A.L.’s was able to “decrease fungicide use” as well as decrease the usage of “other spray applications.” Doubling production while lowering costly inputs: a recipe for healthier profits for plant nursery operators.

PlantTape customer support

PlantTape offers legendary support to our grower customers. This support ranges from technical to agronomical: our Director of Agronomy, Hunter Smith, is available to consult our customers, and our technical team is here for any equipment issues.

Jake Rothert confirms that PlantTape support “is always a phone call away—day, night, weekend—for any issue that I had.” He says that his experience with PlantTape has been overwhelmingly positive, thanks largely to the responsiveness and resourcefulness of our customer service team.

“Planting season can be really demanding,” he notes, “and they’ve always been there to help me through that.”

Jason Kelley notes that PlantTape has “a flat organization so that I can talk to anyone. Getting in contact with the right people has never been a problem.

And, lastly, Bryan Knepper expressed similar appreciation for PlantTape’s responsive customer support. “Any time we have a question, there is always an immediate response,” he says. “They always know what to do over the phone.”

Jake’s advice to other farms

“For somebody that’s interested in PlantTape,” Jake advises, “the best thing is get in contact with the team. Go out to another farm, talk to growers that are currently using it.”

Above all, if you’re a grower considering adopting the PlantTape automated transplanting system, watch a PlantTape automated transplanter in action. “Once you see the machine run,” Jake Rothert promises, “it’s going to sell itself.”

 

Mature PlantTape iceberg lettuce crop in the field, Rothert Farm Inc., Okeechobee, Florida

Mature PlantTape iceberg lettuce crop in the field, Rothert Farm Inc., Okeechobee, Florida

 

About PlantTape

PlantTape is an agtech company. Based in California’s Salinas Valley, we provide an automated transplanting system to growers of vegetables, tomatoes, and hemp. With the PlantTape system, growers can reduce labor requirements and increase crop yield.

If you are a grower interested in learning whether PlantTape is right for you, please contact PlantTape and we will answer your questions.

For media inquiries, public relations, or other marketing questions, please email marketing@planttape.com.