US (MN): Bailey Nurseries saves work and water with robots and drip tape

Water resource issues have become an increasing concern in agriculture not just in drought stricken areas such as the Southwest but across the United States. Cost and watering optimization are just as large a concern as drought, sustainability, and environmental stewardship for Nursery and Greenhouse growers. Getting the right amount of water to plants at the right time has been shown to improve yield and speed growth for many species. To balance all of these concerns, some growers have begun to use drip tape to water container grown plants.

Bailey Nurseries in Newport Minnesota has been using drip tape for several years. But with their purchase of Harvest Automation HV-100 robots they were presented with a challenge of how to set drip tape on plants that were spaced by robots. Bailey Nurseries is a fifth-generation family-owned nursery serving customers worldwide. They are widely recognized as one of the United States' largest wholesale nurseries, with products distributed by more than 4500 independent garden centres, landscapers, growers and re-wholesalers. Bailey Nurseries' headquarters is in Newport, Minnesota and has growing operations on over 5,000 acres in Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and Illinois.

Typical for the nursery business, Bailey Nurseries was reliant on seasonal labour to move plants. While spacing, consolidating and collecting plants are critical tasks for any operation, they are also the most physically demanding tasks in a Nursery or Greenhouse. Workers quickly get worn out as the day wears on. Repeatedly bending and picking up a plant that weighs as much as 22 pounds for 8 hours a day under the hot sun or in the cold and rain not only tires a person, but can lead to debilitating back injuries, lost work days and expensive workers compensation claims. Harvest Automation HV-100 robots can eliminate these concerns, while getting real work done moving plants morning, noon and night.
 
Before robots the Bailey team would lay down strips of drip tape on beds first, then move plants into position, lift the tape over the top of the plants and finally connect the tape to the plumbing. "Our old process was very labour intensive and required repeated bending to space plants, and again to lift the drip tape into position over the container," said Mike Hoffman, Bailey Nurseries head grower. "When the robots arrived we really had to think about our process and all the steps involved." Mike and Ezequiel Vega, Bailey Nurseries Labour Manager, gathered their teams and put their heads together to devise a new process. The accuracy of plant spacing with robots was so good that the team found that if they allowed the robots to space plants on an open bed, when the robots had finished, Ezequiel's team could lay down the drip tape across the length of the bed, and lift the tape onto the pot with just a small correction needed to align the pot to the drip before connecting to the plumbing. "With robots we not only saved the cost of labour for plant spacing, but the spacing was so accurate that we even saved time and wear and tear on our workers to lay drip tape," said Mike.

The HV-100 is meant for year-round use, with capabilities for spacing plants in the spring, re-spacing picked over fields once shipping has begun and collecting plants to can-tight in the fall for winter protection. For operations large and small the HV-100 makes sense for any Nursery and Greenhouse. Getting quality work done when it's needed most.


For more information about Bailey Nurseries please visit www.baileynurseries.com.

To contact Harvest Automation sales please call Greg Timbol at (978) 528-4450 or gregt@harvestai.com.

For more information about Harvest Automation and the HV-100, please see www.harvestai.com.
 

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