We have visited several Dutch greenhouse growers to see how they are working with the alternative binding system of Agrifast. Many have written about and discussed the system and we thought it was time to see and hear from the growers themselves why they are working with this new concept, as the TOM System by Agrifast is gaining more and more popularity in Dutch horticulture; it is being used in Tomatoes, Peppers and even in High Wire Cucumbers.
The TOM System was introduced by Agrifast a couple of years ago to offer a solution to traditional crop trellising systems and working methods of plastic clips and manual twining. "After some improvements and further development, Agrifast now offers a machine that can seriously compete with the former working methods," said Dutch tomato grower Mart van der Knaap, who is growing TOV's on 10 hectare in Berkel en Rodenrijs. According to him, the main advantage of the TOM System are it's metal rings and the fact that it is easy to learn to work with the machine.
Dirk-Jan Haas of DJ-Products.
"Clipping or manually twining the crops is a specialism, you will need qualified people to this job, and they are hard to find," says Van der Knaap. "It is a hard to learn and it costs numerous hours and weeks before people can achieve the same performance results as experienced work forces. With the TOM System, a worker can achieve high performances after 1 or 2 weeks."
Another big advantage for Van der Knaap was the vital benefits to it's crop. "With clips and twining, I have the idea that the plant is being pinched. The metal clip from Agrifast is not pinching the stems at all, the plants is hanging better, and I have an idea that we have a stronger crop compared to twining or clipping."
At the greenhouse of Van der Knaap, the workers ring the greenhouse with the TOM System every week. "In the end, the material costs are similar compared to the use of plastic clips. I have a little less labour costs and I can learn the work of any worker. On top of that there is better growth from the crop, which made me decide to use the TOM-system from Agrifast, I have a good feeling about it."
Dirk-Jan Haas of DJ Products is the Dutch distributor and contact person for the TOM System. He said that also the sustainability aspect of the system is very important. "Traditional clips are made of plastics and will remain in the greenhouse or on the crops when they are removed from the greenhouse at the end of the cultivation cycle. The recycling companies are not fond of plastic clips and prefer the metal rings because they can simple be removed with a magnetized conveyor belt. Next to this, the metal ring will also dissolve very soon thanks to the plant juice of the crops, within 2 years they are completely dissolved."
In tomato cultivation, the TOM-System is now being used in the Netherlands on 60 hectares. As well as this, the system is now being used in bell peppers on 8 hectares. More recently a 5 hectare high wire cucumber grower started with the system.
High-wire cucumber grower Jan Reijn
Cucumber grower Jan Reijn of V.O.F. Reijm & Zn cultivates cucumbers with the advanced high wire cultivation system. "We decided to use the TOM-System because we want to prevent pollution of our greenhouse with plastic clips. We knew that there are bio-degradable clips available, but they are way more expensive than regular ones. On top of this the price of the regular plastic clips is changing too much every year due to fluctuation in the oil prices."
Grower Reijn started trials with the TOM-System this year. "We noticed better performance among our workers, they learn very fast. With traditional clips you will need 200 hours before you have gained enough experience. With the TOM-System you can reach up to 1200-1400 stems per hour within 80-120 hours of experience. The only requirement is that you will have to have an equal crop, and all of the plants must be at the same height; in High wire cucumber cultivation that is not a big issue."
In the beginning of the cultivation the workers at V.O.F. Reijm & Zn, ring every 4 days, now in a later stage they ring every 5-6 days. In the 2nd crop cycle of this year, Reijn will no longer use plastic clips. "I feel confident about the Agrifast TOM-System and look forward to start using it on our total acreage during the second cultivation cycle."
The TOM-System is also gaining foothold outside Holland. Growers in the US and Canada have started to use it in their greenhouses as well. An interview with these growers will follow later on HortiDaily.com.
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