Imagine a world where processing tomatoes are planted at two acres per hour with 10 percent of the human labor. That world is here.
Plant Tape is an automated process that can plant tomatoes and other western vegetables with greater efficiency. In processing tomatoes the number of workers needed to plant a row of tomatoes is cut by about 90 percent and can be done at the speed of a fast walk.
Central California processing tomato growers flocked to a field day near Five Points recently to watch the automated transplant machine roll through the field and transplant single rows of processing tomatoes alongside drip irrigation line being unrolled at the same time. A single tractor pulled the small machine.
See photos from the recent Five Points field day here.
Plant Tape President Brian Antle said the system was originally developed in Spain and acquired in 2014 by Tanimura & Antle, a produce grower with locations in California, Arizona and Tennessee.
“All of the development work to this point has been on western vegetables,” Antle says. This includes tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, cabbage and celery.
Antle says a big selling point of the system is perhaps the labor savings. A typical tomato planting crew can top 30 people. With this system one person operates the tractor and two ride along on the planter ensuring the transplants and drip tape feed properly.
The Five Points field demonstration used a single-row tomato planter. Growers were curious to know if multiple rows could be used. Antle said could simply be a matter of expanding the machine as this is already being done in other vegetables.
A video illustrating the planting of multiple rows of romaine lettuce in the Salinas Valley is available online.
Tanimura & Antle has already planted about 25,000 acres with this technology. Antle says the goal is to plant 100 percent of their crops with this technology.
Field day demonstrations are slated for July 9-29 at Tanimura & Antle in Salinas. Visit their website for more information and to register.