This article originally appeared as “Innovation in the Fields – Tanimura & Antle” on the blog of American AgCredit Santa Rosa, California.
Innovation is part of every farmer’s DNA. With ever-evolving challenges, including weather, soil health, changing customer food preferences, success in agriculture means paying attention to today while planning for tomorrow.
No one understands this more than Brian Antle president of PlantTape – a fully automated transplanting system using tape. Looking for ways to improve the growing process, Brian was intrigued by an amazing innovation. “The technology was created in Spain in the early 2000s,” he says. “Our parent company, Tanimura & Antle, is a third-generation, family and employee-owned company started by my grandfather. We acquired the PlantTape technology in 2014 and brought it to the United States for further development, spending three years growing it on our ranches to establish the practices needed for this new type of growing. After 35,000 acres of growing, we were finally ready to share, so in 2017 we launched PlantTape and now we’re selling it all around the world.”
It’s truly a revolutionary advancement that is, if you’ll pardon the expression, taking root all over the world. Brian explains, “PlantTape allows you to start plants, such as lettuce, in the nursery as opposed to putting the seed directly into the field. This provides better uniformity and better germination. It allows the crop to grow the first three very critical weeks of its life in a controlled nursery environment as opposed to the adverse weather out in the field. Once they are established, we take them from the nursery and transplant them in the field. PlantTape automates the transplant process as opposed to the old way of doing it by hand, which speeds up the efficiencies and increases the acres planted in a day.”
A key element of American AgCredit’s mission is recognizing and supporting innovative ideas such as PlantTape that will improve farmers ability to feed the world. Brian says, “We’ve been partners with American AgCredit for over 20 years and they allow us the flexibility to continue to look for new investments and develop new innovations.”
It’s a way of life
Brian adds, “I think the next ten years – there’s going to be more changes than in the last 50 years of farming. It’s a pretty exciting time to be part of agriculture.”
And an exciting time for American AgCredit to be part of that story.
What is PlantTape?
PlantTape is the world’s most advanced, efficient, and flexible process for the sowing, germination, and transplanting of crops.
PlantTape is precision agriculture.
PlantTape delivers logistical flexibility, precision, and efficiency to growers.
PlantTape is a sowing and transplanting system.
We’re not just in the business of selling farm equipment: we’re providing something much better.
While we do manufacture our own agricultural equipment, we integrate that equipment into the larger PlantTape process.
The entire PlantTape process is built around our namesake innovation: a biodegradable tape that holds seeds and seedlings. The tape facilitates ease of sowing, efficient nursery operations, and automated transplanting.
PlantTape’s proprietary tape material is the heart of our entire system. Everything else, from our transplanter to our transportation bins to our facilities, supports the remarkable efficiencies that our tape makes possible.
PlantTape—the tape itself—is a blend of peat, coco, and vermiculite between two layers of biodegradable paper. Sounds simple enough, but this humble innovation is driving an agricultural revolution.
Because of our tape, PlantTape offers growers a seamless, end-to-end agricultural solution for the entire process from sowing to transplanting in the field.
The tape enables the process
PlantTape receives and holds the grower’s seeds during sowing operations. In the nursery, it enables timed germination and lets seedlings grow with correct root architecture. And, it allows our automated transplanter to deliver each transplant into the ground with unprecedented precision and control on the part of the grower.
The 3-part PlantTape process
The PlantTape process begins in one of our sowing centers. After seeds are dry-sown into our proprietary tape, the sown tape is palletized and shipped to the grower’s nursery of choice.
The seeds germinate inside the tape when introduced to water. PlantTape’s denser plant spacing (840 plants per tray!) and shorter growing cycles make for high-yield nursery operations.
PlantTape’s blazing-fast (2-7 acres per hour!) 3-point transplanter unspools the tape from the nursery trays, cutting each transplant loose and placing it into the ground.
Once a customer’s seed is received to a PlantTape sowing facility, it is inventoried and stored in a secure, climate-controlled room until sowing.
Seeds are sown into PlantTape material, after which the material is cut into strips (i.e, “tape”), folded, and loaded into trays of 840 seeds each.
The sown PlantTape is palletized, wrapped and labeled for immediate delivery to a commercial nursery or farming operation.
PlantTape gives logistical freedom
Because PlantTape sows seeds into a completely dry tape environment, growers can delay germination to account for unforeseen circumstances.
PlantTape sowing facilities
- Hollister, California
- Livingston, Tennessee
- Barcelona, Spain
- Boston, United Kingdom
Nurseries initiate germination via standard irrigation methods. PlantTape trays hold 840 plants—2-3 times more than conventional transplanting systems. With a denser seedling population, PlantTape maximizes nursery space and improves transportation efficiencies.
Flexible planting schedule
PlantTape transplants can be planted at any stage of growth. Such flexibility in the planting schedule allows growers to mitigate the impact of adverse weather and other uncontrollable circumstances.
Because PlantTape seedlings can be planted younger than conventional transplants, nurseries have shorter growing cycles and higher throughput.
A competitive nursery advantage
More plants per square foot plus shorter growing cycles: PlantTape represents a significant competitive advantage for commercial nursery operations.
By implementing the PlantTape system, a plant nursery can significantly increase production without the capital costs of additional greenhouse space.
- Capacity: ~1 million plants per 5,000 ft 2
- Speed: 0-30 days per growing cycle
- Efficiency: 840 plants per tray
- Easy conversion for most nurseries
From the nursery, trays of PlantTape transplants are loaded into bins and shipped to the field. At 840 plants per tray and 108 trays per bin, a PlantTape bin contains around 90,000 transplants. Transplants are loaded into PlantTape’s automated transplanter, which can carry 68 trays at a time (or around 57,000 plants).
The transplanter unspools the PlantTape from the trays and places each transplant into the ground according to precise settings for line spacing, plant spacing, and depth.
The adaptable transplanter
PlantTape provides the benefits of automated transplanting without the drawbacks of other automated systems.
Other automated transplanters are factory-fixed for a specific wheelbase or bed configuration. PlantTape’s 3-point planter can be adjusted in the field for almost any bed configuration. Its wheelbase is adjustable from 60″-84″ with simple tools, and it can plant anywhere from 1-8 lines of plants.
- Capacity : 2-7 acres per hour
- Efficiency : 2-3 employees per machine
- Easily adjustable to fit most bed configurations
PlantTape delivers precision agriculture
The new generation of agtech
Agricultural technology, or agtech, has revolutionized agriculture over the past century. PlantTape is part of the newest wave of agtech companies bringing exciting innovations to empower growers.
“Precision agriculture” is a hot topic in the agtech world, and for good reason. With shrinking profit margins and expanding challenges, growers can’t afford slippage in their operations.
PlantTape competitive advantages
PlantTape delivers unprecedented efficiencies in sowing, nursery, and transplanting operations. With the PlantTape automated transplanting system, growers can:
- enjoy logistical flexibility by scheduling seed germination to meet their timeline
- navigate weather issues with the freedom to plant seedlings at any stage of development
- have healthier seedlings (minimal transplanting stress plus a natural root architecture)
- cut labor costs associated with planting
- have a single transplanter for multiple crops and bed configurations
The PlantTape 3-point planter is the most advanced, user-friendly transplanter on the market today. It’s just one component of an entire process that includes dry-sowing, delayed or timed germination, high-yield nursery operations, and blazing fast transplanting of seedlings.
Driven by our plant tape and supported by world-class equipment and automation, PlantTape delivers the benefits of precision agriculture to mid-size and large growers in the United States and around the world.