A new, automated transplanting technology will be used at several Ontario vegetable farms with the goal of improving planting efficiency during the short, but very busy planting season.
Kent County’s Bercab Farms, working with Jennen Bros Inc. and Sydenham Farms, has been approved for funding through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to trial a vegetable transplanting machine in Ontario called ‘Agriplanter.’
Coming to North America for the first time, the European-made, tractor-pulled row transplanter helps automate the planting process. It’s already being used by commercial vegetable farmers in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The Agriplanter is expected to reduce labour needs by 70 per cent compared with the current planting method, and increase planted acres per hour by 20 per cent. Additional cost savings should be seen in fuel and equipment hours per acre. It’s also expected to seed more accurately, giving the plants a better start, and ultimately, better yields.
North American vegetable plant plugs are half the size of those in Europe. Sydenham Farms has taken the lead on the design and templating work to modify the size of standard seedling trays used by Ontario vegetable growers so they can be used on the new European machine.
Trials are underway at both Bercab Farms and nearby vegetable producer Jennen Bros using cauliflower, pepper, onion and tomato plants, with the goal of having the system fully operational by spring 2019.
“The funding we will receive for this project (up to $119,540) is highly important to our collaboration. We wouldn’t have entered into this project without it, as it would have been an expensive burden on the three farms, particularly if it wasn’t successful,” says Rob deNijs, vice president of Bercab Farms. He adds that a field day will be hosted once the system is working to showcase the technology to others.
Source: Canadian Agricultural Partnership Feb. 11, 2019 news release