The World’s Fastest Transplanter

The World’s Fastest Transplanter

The World’s Fastest Transplanter

PlantTape’s 3-point transplanter is fast. How fast? We decided to find out. We took it to the field with the intention of discovering the top speed at which the planter could still plant with precision. Growers typically operate our machine at 1-6 mph, depending on the crop planted and soil type. The limiting factor on the speed, however, is not actually the transplanter, but is limited by the crew’s ability to keep up with feeding the tape into the planting modules. PlantTape requires only two workers (not including the tractor driver), and a primary task of these two individuals is clipping the tape from different nursery trays together for a seamless pull-through by the planting modules.

A Word on PlantTape Nursery Trays and Tape

As we explain in our automated transplanter page, our transplanter’s planting modules pull the tape (which holds the seedlings) from nursery trays, cut the tape between plants, and place each seedling into the soil. A PlantTape transplanter holds 68 trays of seedlings. At 840 plants per tray, that’s about 57,000 plants. With each tray’s tape clipped to the beginning of the next tray’s tape, an ultralong, unbroken tape can be pulled through the modules.

 

PlantTape’s Rate-Limiting Factor for Transplanting

The limiting factor for the top transplanting speed is not the transplanter itself, but rather the crew’s ability to keep up with the speed of the machine to clip the tape together, tray-to-tray. If the tape is flying out of the trays faster than the crew can clip it, the transplanter out paces the two people and the tape ends. The rate at which the tape leaves the trays depends on two factors: plant-to-plant spacing, and ground speed. If plant-to-plant spacing is wider—say for hemp or tomatoes—the crew can keep pace with a higher ground speed. With a crop such as onions or lettuce, however, a tight plant-to-plant spacing means that the tape will be leaving the trays at more velocity, given equal ground speed.

Planter Modules Calibrated to Transplanter Ground Speed

PlantTape’s transplanter stands apart from the competition in its ability to calibrate the planting rates of its modules to the machine’s ground speed. If the tractor driver speeds up or slows down, plant spacing stays consistent as the modules adjust their rate to compensate. In contrast, other transplanters’ ground drive systems can’t automatically calibrate their planting rate to ground speed, so they rely on specific ground speeds to achieve a target plant spacing. Automatic planting rate calibration: yet another advantage of the PlantTape system.

 

So How Fast Can the PlantTape Transplanter Go?

Danielle Michaels recalls her days in the field (currently, Danielle serves as PlantTape’s North American Sales Director with a particular tractor driver who “suddenly started going 10mph” during a day of vegetable transplanting. “The transplanter planted just fine,” she remembers, “but the ride got a bit bumpy for the crew.” A 10 mph transplanter is ultrafast by industry standards, but the team at PlantTape suspected the machine could plant with precision at much higher speeds. To find the transplanter’s top planting speed, a PlantTape crew, , hitched one of our transplanters to a John Deere 6150 tractor and achieved sustained speeds of 20 mph. The planting modules still delivered each seedling into the soil with the same precision as at lower speeds. “We would never recommend going this fast for production acres,” Michaels admits, “but this is just for fun, to see how fast it would go.” Until we receive notice of our record being overturned, PlantTape is laying claim to the world’s fastest transplanter. Watch the PlantTape “Fastest Transplanter” Youtube video of the demo.

 

About PlantTape

PlantTape represents an entire automated transplanting system, of which our fast transplanter is one component.

  • Sowing: it all begins with our automated sowing system, which seeds our tape.
  • Nursery: PlantTape empowers high-yield nursery operations by more than doubling greenhouse throughput.
  • Transplanting: our 3-point planter is the fastest, most efficient transplanter on the planet.

The entire process, from sowing through transplanting, is enabled by our trademark plant tape: a biodegradable tape that holds seeds, and later seedlings, through the entire cycle. Growers of vegetables, tomatoes, and hemp have revolutionized their operations with PlantTape. Our customers have reduced labor costs by as much as 80%, increased crop yield, and introduced other efficiencies to their operations.

PlantTape Promotes Sustainable Agriculture

PlantTape Promotes Sustainable Agriculture

PlantTape is well-known for the efficiencies we bring to nurseries and to transplanting in the field. The environmental benefits of our automated transplanting system is often highlighted less, but is equally important as farmers are challenged daily to become more sustainable while feeding the world.

Biodegradable Plant Tape

Our trademark plant tape material is what enables our entire system, from sowing through transplanting. The tape is biodegradable, which is one of the key factors in allowing the PlantTape automated transplanting system to be such a game changer. Because the tape can go directly into the soil, the plant is never touched during planting.  Once in the ground, the tape is still visible if a plant is uprooted from the ground.  However, after the field is harvested and the remaining plant material is disked back into the soil, the tape will disintegrate over time among the other organic matter.

Lower Peat Usage

Peat is a primary component of crop transplanting globally. With many world governments considering limits on peat mining, peat costs can be expected to increase in the coming years creating another increasing cost for growers while food prices remain the same.

The UK, for example, plans to ban sales of peat compost to the general public by 2024. Meanwhile, the National Trusts’ joint statement on peat calls for “a complete ban on the use and sale of horticultural peat.”

By using PlantTape, growers can cut peat costs significantly, while staying on the good side of environmental issues—and of governments with an eye on the peat industry.

The PlantTape system reduces peat usage by up to 98% compared to other transplanting systems. Where a traditional peat block is 120 cubic centimeters, PlantTape uses only 3 cc’s per seedling.

Biodegradable PlantTape material prior to the seeds being sown.

Long-Lifespan Nursery Trays

Traditional celled nursery trays are single use, generating significant plastic waste per each acre of crop planted.

In contrast, PlantTape’s reusable nursery trays last multiple seasons. With their sturdy construction and modular design, they serve growers year after year, diverting tons of plastic waste from the landfill.

Lower Field Inputs

Some growers find that adopting the PlantTape automated transplanting system results in lower field inputs. Because plants spend less time in the field and more time in a controlled environment, necessary inputs are applied precisely, as needed.  Some growers in California’s Salinas Valley report a 10-15% decrease in watering and fertilization requirements on the lifetime of the crop with PlantTape as compared to traditional transplanting systems.

Nursery Efficiencies

A nursery utilizing the PlantTape system is more efficient per square foot of floor space. A PlantTape nursery tray holds 840 seedlings, compared to 338 seedlings for a standard nursery tray. The PlantTape tray is only slightly larger than the conventional tray, so PlantTape more than doubles greenhouse holding capacity.

Because PlantTape can double greenhouse productivity, nurseries achieve an equivalent throughput with half the greenhouse land-use footprint. Smaller greenhouses require less heating, lighting, and other inputs.

A nursery with the goal of doubling production would traditionally need to double floorspace, which would mean increasing electricity usage, water usage, and other inputs. With PlantTape, in contrast, it can achieve its goal with its current floorspace and inputs.

PlantTape trays hold nearly 2.5 times more seedlings than traditional transplant trays

Precision Planting for More Productive Stands

PlantTape’s planter modules are driven by a hydraulic system. The hydraulic drive allows consistent spacing, even in challenging conditions, unlike chain-and-sprocket ground-driven transplanters that often slip or skip plants in sandy or slick soil.

Calibrating Planting Modules to Ground Speed

The PlantTape transplanter’s computer system ensures that each seedling is placed into the soil with the utmost precision. A wheel tracks fluctuations in ground speed and the computer calibrates the speed of the transplanter modules to ensure that plant-to-plant spacing remains consistent whether the planter is going 2 miles per hour or 5 miles per hour (note that we’ve successfully proven our transplanter at 20mph, though we don’t recommend going that fast for production planting).

Greater Granularity in Plant Spacing

PlantTape’s  easy to use computer system enables adjustment of plant-to-plant spacing in quarter-inch increments. this increased granularity gives more precision to growers, allowing them to experiment and fine-tune planting stands to perform and grow best in their local conditions.

As a result, PlantTape crops often have higher-quality stand counts which then results in a better crop yield. As with nursery productivity, growers often achieve higher productivity out of equivalent acreage by adopting PlantTape for vegetable, tomato, and hemp transplanting.

Precision Agriculture is Sustainable Agriculture

From the sowing line to the nursery to the field, PlantTape drives multiple efficiencies that reinforce one another. As one precision agriculture solution among many emerging farming automations, PlantTape is helping drive the future of agriculture.

Precision agricultural technologies such as PlantTape empower growers to produce more with less, which is good for the earth—and for the nearly 8 billion people living on it.

Ohio Tomato Planting Update

Ohio Tomato Planting Update

In May 2021, PlantTape conducted a tomato transplanting trial in Northwest Ohio. The trial aimed to demonstrate viability of PlantTape’s automated transplanting system for non-irrigated tomato agriculture. Recently, a crew harvested the PlantTape tomatoes and compared yield and fruit quality to conventionally planted tomatoes of the same variety grown adjacent to the PlantTape trial.

The Tomato Planting Trial

In May, as reported in our previous blog post, PlantTape injected subsurface water to the root zone of each tomato seedling during transplanting. The injected water helped the transplanted tomatoes establish themselves during 5+ days of dry, hot weather before the next rains arrived.

Subsequent inspections revealed that the PlantTape tomatoes were thriving on par with their conventionally planted neighbors, with similar height, color, and other health markers.

 

Harvesting the PlantTape Tomatoes

Tomato transplants ready to be planted

The PlantTape tomato harvest compared favorably with tomatoes which were planted with conventional transplanting methods. Both crops—PlantTape tomatoes and nearby conventionally planted tomatoes of the same variety—measured similarly in terms of the following metrics:

  • Stand
  • Yield (tons per acre)
  • Color
  • Uniformity

The harvest further validates the viability of the PlantTape automated transplanting system for no-irrigation tomato growing operations.

 Tomato plant roots from PlantTape transplant

Seeking Partners for 2022 Tomato Trials

PlantTape will conduct further tomato trials in the 2022 growing season, and welcomes partnership opportunities to trial our system’s capabilities in different regions of the United States.

Next year’s trials will test longevity of PlantTape seedlings in the greenhouse, among other critical factors.

PlantTape is giving growers the opportunity to demo the equipment before having to make a final decision on the product.

If you are a tomato grower in the US and wish to participate in a tomato transplanting trial, please contact Danielle Michaels at daniellemichaels@planttape.com to discuss logistics.

 

 

About PlantTape: PlantTape is an agricultural technology company based in Salinas, California. Our automated transplanting system making the nursery and transplanting process more efficient for vegetable growers, tomato growers, and hemp growers around the world.

The Flexible, High-Yield Nursery: How PlantTape Revolutionizes Greenhouse Operations

The Flexible, High-Yield Nursery: How PlantTape Revolutionizes Greenhouse Operations

PlantTape has gained a lot of attention for revolutionizing the transplanting process (80% reduction in transplanting labor requirements, better stands, higher crop yield), but the benefits of our automated transplanting system show up in the nursery, as well.

PlantTape’s greenhouse benefits include:

  • Greenhouses can double throughput
  • Growers have flexibility on when to transplant
  • Growers can opt to bring nursery operations in-house

We can sum all these benefits in two words: efficiency and flexibility. Indeed, efficiency and flexibility have always been the heart of what the PlantTape automated transplanting system offers to growers and nursery operators.

Enhanced Greenhouse Throughput

A PlantTape Nursery

A nursery using the PlantTape system can double or even triple its seedling throughout compared to a traditional greenhouse using celled nursery trays.“The PlantTape system allowed me to double nursery production, due to increased plant density and shorter growing cycles.” –Jason Kelly, S.A.L.S Transplants, LLC

A nursery using the PlantTape system can double or even triple its seedling throughout compared to a traditional

greenhouse using celled nursery trays.

PlantTape Doubles Nursery Plant Density

PlantTape enables a greenhouse to grow a million seedlings in 5,000 square feet of floorspace. That equates to 200,000 seedlings per thousand square feet of floorspace.

Compared to traditional nurseries that grow 116,272 plants per thousand square feet, PlantTape offers nearly double the plant density. While a PlantTape nursery tray is only slightly bigger than a standard 338 celled tray, it has a much higher holding capacity.

PlantTape Allows Shorter Growing Cycles

With the PlantTape system, a grower can opt to plant seedlings at any point after germination.

Other transplanting methods require workers to manually pull transplants from their celled trays. The plants must be sufficiently developed not to separate from the root system as they are manually pulled out of the tray, meaning they must remain in the greenhouse for a definite maturation period.

With PlantTape, in contrast, the seedlings don’t need to be pulled. Instead, each transplant is placed—still in its original soil plug—into the ground by the PlantTape planting modules. Accordingly, PlantTape seedlings can be transplanted immediately after germination if desired.

PlantTape’s reduced growing cycle allows nurseries to cycle through more seedling sets.

Combine shorter growing cycles with increased seedling density, and you’ve got a recipe for a high-yield nursery.

PlantTape Tape

PlantTape has developed some enhancements to our standard tape material.

Logistical Flexibility on When to Plant

As we discussed in our article on PlantTape enabling a flexible transplanting schedule, PlantTape’s open-ended transplanting timing allows growers to coordinate planting around weather events, labor issues, or other constraints.

Growers Choose Whether to Use a Commercial Nursery

Another way PlantTape gives growers flexibility is by giving them the option to do in-house nursery operations.

For example, some growers find themselves geographically remote from any commercial nursery. With PlantTape, they can set up their own (highly efficient) greenhouse. PlantTape can sow the grower’s seed in one of our and ship it straight to their operation.

So long as the grower has a simple greenhouse set up with T rails and a watering/fertilizing boom, they are equipped to handle the nursery stage of the PlantTape automated transplanting system.

Come transplanting time, the grower simply loads their nursery trays of PlantTape seedlings from the nursery into their PlantTape 3-point planter, then transplants away.

 

PlantTape Innovations

PlantTape has developed some enhancements to our standard tape material, and these offer even more optionality to growers and nursery operators.

Extended-Life Tape

Our extended-life tape biodegrades more slowly than our regular tape, allowing nurseries to keep transplants in the greenhouse for longer residency times. PlantTape’s tape material begins to biodegrade when introduced to water. Our standard tape holds up for 4-5 weeks, which is more than enough for most crops or most scenarios. However, there are crops—onions, leeks, and parsley, to name three—for which a longer nursery stay is generally desirable. Additionally, there are climates or scenarios for which extending the nursery duration makes sense. For example, a rainy climate might necessitate a longer stay while a grower waits for dryer conditions. The PlantTape extended-life tape remains structurally viable for 8-10 weeks: more than enough time for any nursery scenario.

Additions to the Tape

PlantTape can add lime to our tape material, making it perfect for growers who wish to raise the alkalinity of their soil. We can also add slow-release fertilizer to the tape; this is ideal for extended-release tape especially.

PlantTape’s Nursery Partners

PlantTape works with commercial nurseries throughout the US, as well as Canada, Spain, and the UK. If you’re a grower interested in adopting PlantTape and are looking for a nursery partner that uses our automated transplanting system, contact PlantTape for information about the closest participating nursery. For nursery operators interested in adopting the PlantTape system to serve PlantTape’s growers: we offer excellent support, training, and development resources to help you get retrofitted and up to speed.

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.

The world’s fastest transplanter

Not only is the PlantTape transplanter versatile, it’s also blazing fast. Recently, we decided to see how fast. We took it to 20mph and it still planted flawlessly. Read about the demo and why we feel confident in our claim of having the world’s fastest transplanter.

About PlantTape

The PlantTape seedling planter is the fastest, most adaptable, and most user-friendly transplanter on the market. It’s only one component of the PlantTape automated transplanting system, which covers sowing, nursery operations, and transplanting. 

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

About PlantTape

About PlantTape

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

Adjusting the PlantTape automated transplanter

“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 agronomy team 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, we also offer 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 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

About PlantTape

 PlantTape is an agtech company based in Salinas, CA with operations around the globe. Whether you’re looking for the most user-friendly vegetable planter, or need a better hemp transplanting solution, the PlantTape automated transplanting system can help you increase crop yield, improve greenhouse throughput, and reduce transplanting labor costs by as much as 80%.