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Finnish gutter system achieves outstanding production numbers

"900 crops of lettuce per square meter, and only 4 laborers per hectare"

For many growers of leafy greens it has always been a challenge to grow as many crop cycles as possible. Of course, the delicate produce can be grown quite cheap on other locations, but since it is a fragile product that needs to be marketed fresh, modern automated hydroponic systems are being developed by automation companies to give growers the opportunity to reach high yields with the smallest amount of labor and energy. Since the eighties the first mobile gully systems were placed in Finnish greenhouses. Now, more then 25 years later, it is a Finnish gutter system that achieves outstanding production numbers. "With our system we ensure the grower can harvest 900 crops per square meter, with the use of only 4 laborers per hectare", said Tero Rapila, CEO of Green Automation Export. “And on top of that, return on investment is usually less than 2 years”

The Finnish company Green Automation Export (GAE) has been working on complete mobile gully handling systems for many years. "We are building these systems for a while now and have a background in the production of lettuce ourselves," said Tero Rapila. "My uncle is a lettuce producer and together with him we decided to develop a new kind of system that enables lower labour costs and increases productivity, without the loss of quality."

After brainstorming, designing and redesigning, the first project of this new kind of growing system was built and has been in full production for 2.5 years now. However, GAE deliberately did not immediately shout it from the rooftops. "We first wanted to be sure that everything worked, and of course we wanted to apply some patents for our systems. As usual, that took a lot of time. During this time we further developed the system. Now that we are secure with the patents, we show it to the rest of the world. We can assure growers that they will achieve production numbers as promised by us, because we tested the system thoroughly. They can now have a predictable, reliable harvest, 365 days per year."

Nowadays, GAE can offer two kinds of hydroponic NFT systems. One of them is based on a more traditional method. Tero: "The principle of this growing system dates back to the eighties when the first growers where pioneering with moving gutters in Finland. We further developed these ideas and now we have designed a system that produce 500 crops of lettuce per square meter, per year. But there is still some manual handling involved in this system. First the operator has to take the automatically seeded trays into the germination room and later he has to transplant them into the gutter. So, this system still needs some labor, but even in Scandinavia where the labor costs are not low, this system is still very attractive."

Video of semi-automatic hydroponic lettuce growing system:

According to Tero, the traditional GAE system uses 10 people per hectare, with a yield of 500 crops per hectare, per year. For those who want to go a step ahead, GAE also developed a system that uses even less manual labor. From seeding to harvesting, sorting and packing, this system uses 4 people per hectare and produces 900 crops per square meter, per year. "This system is quite unique and has patents", said Tero. "We are automatically seeding directly into the gutter. Everything is done automatically. The only thing that has to be done manually in the beginning of the process is to fill rockwool substrate and seed cartridges. From then, the whole system is working 2 hours automatically, until It needs a refill."

Video of fully-automatic hydroponic lettuce growing system:

After the crop is ready for harvest, two workers are needed to harvest the crop. The rest goes automatically. The gutters are cleaned by a machine, and the harvested crop will be weighed and (flow)-packed automatically. Here GAE combines the latest packing machinery and techniques developed by other suppliers into their designs.

Tero Rapila from GAE at IPM 2013.

With already two successful projects of this fully automatic system in full production, it is now time for Green Automation Export to show their advanced hydroponic growing systems to the industry. "We showed the system at the Horti Fair and at IPM Essen. The first reactions we got were quite positive and we are already in conversation with some industry leaders. The main reason for their interest is the reliable and predictable harvest and yield. That makes it a remarkable system in an industry where many suppliers are trying to achieve the same."

For more information:
Green Automation Export
Tero Rapila
+358 44 0404409


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Please advise cost for a medium size hydroponic lettuces
production system.
full system details is much appreciated.
Ghazi qadoum, amman - 2015/10/29 11:02:16.000

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