The ISO Model 2500 automated sticking machines are here! This robotically driven machine is programmed to stick upwards of 2,400 cuttings per hour and it’s new at Four Star this season.
According to Jeff Back, Director of Greenhouse Operations, Four Star has invested in this innovative system and in extra space to ensure that it can be a trusted source for top quality plants long into the future. He says this system will revolutionize production and also free up several workers to focus on the expanded perennial and shrub growing and shipping programs.
See for Yourself
“We’ve been using these machines for a few weeks now and are really happy with them,” Back says. The machines are built to Four Star’s specifications and are outfitted with a special gripper and two overhead cameras that take pictures of each cutting and tell the robotic arm how to pick it up, orient it and transfer it into the tray.
He points out that a key advantage to the new system, in addition to speed, is the consistent way cuttings are placed in the trays. This will allow Four Star to grow a higher quality crop and speed production at the same time.
“Our goal is to run it for a minimum of two shifts during our busiest season and more if possible,” he notes. Currently, the team is still assessing the machines’ capabilities and rates of production.
“It’s really exciting!” says Back. “It meets our requirements for speed and we have it programmed for 12 genera right now. We can adjust any of the details and the growers are happy with the quality of the work.
He explains, “Our challenge is to keep the machine supplied. We used to receive cuttings midweek and stick them by Friday, but now we are working with our supplier to change the flow of cuttings. The machine requires some changes in the specs for cuttings. Our supplier told us the varieties they can meet the specs on and if it doesn’t meet the spec, we won’t stick the cutting. This allows us to grade the supplier.”
“This system is so advanced – it does the physical work, plus it analyzes the quality of the cuttings and sends us info on the efficiency of our system,” Back notes. “It communicates so many details, like the number of trays, percent of good cuttings, amount of downtime and why, etc.”
He says that Four Star continues to look at expanded production and new technology in order to keep up with customer demand and grow the best plants available.
The goal is better supply to customers, Back says. “This system allows us to produce more plants, more quickly, and positions us as a strong supplier with large volume to consistently provide the plants our customers firstname.lastname@example.org.