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