Originally developed in Spain, PlantTape was acquired by Tanimura & Antle in 2014 for technical development and commercialization in the United States. The PlantTape automated transplanting system is ideal for agricultural producers aiming for increased efficiency and productivity in their operations. We spoke with Brian Antle, President, PlantTape USA, to discover more about the innovative system.
How did you discover PlantTape?
Through a chance meeting at a seed trial in Gilroy, CA, I met Bram Stroot who was at the same trial representing PlantTape from Spain and looking for an anchor customer to enter into the U.S. market. We discussed the technology and quickly discovered it would be a perfect fit for our operation and western U.S. vegetable production. Soon after that meeting, I went to Spain to see the technology in person with the intention of purchasing a transplanter to become a customer. However, our conversations quickly turned to the idea of Tanimura & Antle purchasing the PlantTape company and helping to finish the development. The global opportunities PlantTape provides agriculture were obvious, and we quickly made a deal to acquire PlantTape. After four years and 10,000 acres of internal research and development on our farms, we are comfortable with the design, process and results to get us to where we are now offering PlantTape on a globally commercial scale.
What challenges is it solving?
For most people, the shortage of quality labor is the biggest issue PlantTape can address. Labor shortages are not unique to the U.S., and growers worldwide struggle to find quality labor needed to supply a stable supply of food. The ability to transplant at 4-6 miles per hour with three people allows PlantTape to achieve production of 1.5-2.5 acres per hour compared to the traditional method where 16 people can only plant one acre per hour. These efficiencies allow a grower to do more with less, which is imperative to overcome the lack of labor and added regulations that are plaguing our industry.
Another benefit of PlantTape is the increased plants per square foot and shorter growing time in the greenhouse, which allows for 200-400% better utilization of a greenhouse using PlantTape vs. a standard transplant system. This results in better greenhouse efficiencies, less inputs and less handling through the entire germination and growing process.
Where do you see this kind of technology headed?
The benefits of PlantTape provide a global market that we are only beginning to tap into. We have had inquiries from every corner of the globe for every crop imaginable, and we are beginning to place the commercial infrastructure in place to support these needs.
Why did you choose to introduce this at United FreshTEC in Chicago?
United FreshTEC provided us with a central location to meet in person with many people we had been in contact with discussing PlantTape and provided us the opportunity to showcase the equipment and discuss the system in a hands-on setting. Due to the large number of attendees at the United FreshTEC show we made many new connections with potential customers we may not have been introduced to.
What progress have you made since June?
Following up with some contacts we made during the United FreshTEC show, we are currently building equipment for new domestic customers, while at the same time, preparing to enter the Australian and Canadian markets this year.
Anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
The United Fresh show is always a great event to attend and catch up with everyone in the industry. I have been very fortunate to work in many aspects of the industry, and it’s always fun catching up with everyone I have met along the way to learn about what’s new in the industry and to see where the next big idea or opportunity may lie. I look forward to seeing everyone at United FreshTEC 2018!