Submitted photo.

Vegetable growers test new technology

Ontario processing vegetable growers are turning to technology in an effort to better meet their labour needs during planting, a short but very busy time of year.

Kent County’s Bercab Farms, working in collaboration 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”.

The European-made, tractor-pulled row transplanter helps automate the planting process; it is already being used by commercial vegetable farmers in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

It will the first time it is used in North America.

Currently, vegetable seedlings in Ontario are transplanted into fields in the spring and each plug plant is individually handled by farm employees, which requires a lot of workers on-farm to get all the crops planted in time.

The use of the Agriplanter is expected to reduce labour needs by 70% when compared with the current planting method.

Adoption of the new technology is also expected to increase the planted acres per hour by 20% with additional costs savings in fuel and equipment hours per acre.

North American vegetable plant plugs are half the size of those in Europe. Sydenham Farms has taken the lead on the design and template work to modify the size of standard seedling trays used by Ontario vegetable growers so they can be used on the new European machine.

In addition to streamlining the planting process and making it easier to manage, the new system is expected to seed more accurately, improving plant-to-soil contact.

This gives the plants a better start, resulting in better plant health and, ultimately, better yields.