When it comes to effective greenhouse management, production inefficiencies are one of the biggest obstructions to profitability. Plants are inherently difficult to mass-produce as they tend to grow on different schedules, and the industry’s continuing labor shortage only magnifies many of the production struggles greenhouses face every season.
Though there is a range of challenges when it comes to greenhouse management, there are a number of new greenhouse technologies being introduced and improved to address these inefficiencies. Here are some of the top greenhouse equipment and technologies working to address common greenhouse production inefficiencies:
Greenhouse Technology #1: Portable Conveyor Belts
Though conveyor belts don’t sound like new or groundbreaking technology, they have a wide range of applications in any greenhouse, all of which work to streamline production by moving material across the greenhouse faster and more efficiently.
While conveyor belts are often permanently installed in key production spaces of the greenhouse, portable conveyor belts provide another opportunity for greenhouse managers to minimize production time. For non-standard activities — moving plants out of the greenhouse into growing areas or transplanting plugs and liners — portable modular conveyors are ideal.
These lightweight conveyors are easily set up anywhere on-site. Sections of belt snap together to form a custom-length conveyor that’s perfectly suited to the application at hand. The conveyor can run as long as is necessary, and when the job is over — the shipping truck is loaded or work is done for the day — the conveyor is quickly broken down and stored out of the way, freeing up space in your greenhouse.
The benefit of a portable modular greenhouse conveyor is production operations that would otherwise require a large crew are easily completed with fewer hands and in less time. The conveyor easily does all the work of moving material — your team need only lift it on and off the conveyor.
Greenhouse Technology #2: Boom Irrigation System
Hand watering plants is a time-consuming activity for any greenhouse. While some plants may require occasional hand-watering, boom irrigation systems are a greenhouse technology that easily overcomes this standard greenhouse production inefficiency.
Irrigation booms are best applied to greenhouses where plants are grown on the floor with wide ranges and walkways to ensure you’re using your water as efficiently as possible.
A boom irrigation system may not be right for every greenhouse, or even every barn in a greenhouse, but when installed in appropriate applications it can provide serious production savings as your team is freed up to spend time on more skilled production tasks.
If a boom irrigation system isn’t right for your greenhouse, there are other commercial solutions, such as drip tubes, tapes, or sub-irrigation. All of these greenhouse technologies work to minimize the time and labor you must invest in watering your plants.
Greenhouse Technology #3: Robotic Transplanters
Transplanting plugs is another time-consuming production process. Each plug must be hand transplanted from a tray into a larger container, which takes time and a great deal of labor that many greenhouses just don’t have the support to complete.
Robotic transplanters are a greenhouse technology that reduce some of the labor needs associated with transplanting plugs into larger containers. The robotic system picks a large number of plugs from standardized trays and places them directly into the designated containers. By automating this time-consuming production process, you can save in labor costs and reduce the overall time investment necessary for this step of production.
Greenhouse Technology #4: Mechanical Pruning, Shearing, or Trimming Machines
For growers of woody ornamentals and larger plants on longer production schedules, plants must be pruned, sheared, and trimmed to facilitate and improve growth. Traditionally, greenhouses would need employees to prune or trim each plant by hand, and then hand-collect and dispose of the cuttings.
Mechanical pruning, shearing, and trimming machines are a greenhouse technology developed to reduce this specific inefficiency in production. These large machines are designed to sweep over large sections of plants, allowing employees to easily prune or trim many plants at once. While many of these machines are still custom-made to suit individual applications, they are remarkably useful in ensuring you’re able to continue the production of high-quality plants, without the costly, time-consuming requirement of hand-trimming or pruning each plant.
Greenhouse Technology #5: Automated Grading or Sorting Machines
Plants that grow at different rates can be difficult to sort and grade. When it comes time to ship them out to nurseries, this can be a time-consuming production process. Employees must evaluate each plant individually and determine whether it is ready for sale, or if it needs more time to grow.
Automated grading or sorting machines are a greenhouse technology developed to solve this particular problem. These machines easily pick out just the plants that are large enough to move onto the next step of production, leaving smaller plants behind to continue growing.
Greenhouse Technology #6: Automatic Greenhouse Monitoring and Response Systems
One of the greatest inefficiencies in greenhouse production is climate control. Greenhouse operators know that optimal conditions produce the best, biggest, and fastest-growing plants, but greenhouses are notoriously difficult to control. New greenhouse monitoring and response systems that employ sensors and remote controls are working hard to address this particular inefficiency.
This greenhouse technology makes use of sensors placed around the greenhouse that measure humidity, sunlight, temperature, and more. When conditions vary outside the optimal range, automated controls can either alert the greenhouse operator or adjust automatically. In the case of an alert system, greenhouse managers will benefit most from a system that enables remote control of the system. This ensures you can adjust conditions within the greenhouse to optimal levels, even when you’re away from the facility.
The greenhouse industry has faced a range of challenges lately, from increasingly drastic climate change to a significant labor shortage. If you’re working to reduce your greenhouse’s production inefficiencies to boost profits, Rapid-Veyor can help. Move more plants in half the time and with half the labor with our lightweight portable modular conveyor belts. Give us a call at 616-662-0954 or contact us online today for more information.
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