7 Questions To Answer Before Choosing Any Nursery Automation Equipment

Author: Aaron Chen  Date Posted:3 February 2020 

There are lots of horticultural and nursery automatic machines in the world, to reduce your labor cost and improve work efficiency.

However, there is quite a lot of confusion in the process of researching the right equipment to suit your need. Before digging into various types of brands, manufacturer, machines and machine series and specific products in certain locations, it would be helpful to ask yourself a few very important questions listed below (highlighted in bold)

To assist you in your decision making process, we have extensively researched and written this guide.

First of all, let us have a quick look at the answers to a few question regarding production nursery.

1. Why does your nursery needs to introduce nursery automation?

According to NGIA, (Nursery & Garden Industry Australia) the majority of production nurseries involved in propagation, production and maintenance of plants are used for sale in retail nurseries, supermarkets, garden centres, hardware stores, landscapers, farmers, forestry, urban forestry and revegetation projects etc.

In most of the cases, the nursery is a permanent nursery rather than a temporary nursery, so there are quite a few challenges in the operation and production process to get a quality product at the right price. For one example, it is not sensible to employ permanent staff for peak growing seasons. Most nurseries engage extra casuals  to cover for these peak production needs. For another example, transportation of plant containers within the nursery is labourious and costly.

With the help of nursery automatic machines and equipment, you can solve many of these problems.

2. Do you consider your nursery as a big nursery or small nursery?

There are two ways to define the size of a nursery:

  • By the number of employees: There is low market share concentration in the nursery and horticulture industry in Australia. Non-employing businesses approximately occupies 47.5% of total industry operators, businesses with up to 19 employees account for a further 47.1%. Only 5.8% of nursery operators have over 20 staff.
  • By the size: Small size nursery is a nursery with less than 5 acres in container production and fewer than 15 acres in field production.

3. Are you a Field (in-ground) Nursery or Container Nursery?

When it comes to land area required, production cycle, intensity of management, types and sizes of plants etc, container production nurseries are very different from field production nurseries.

Therefore, the choice of nursery automatic machines will also be very different!

4. What do you need as a small to medium size nursery? Production or Flexibility?

Let us assume that you are a small (1-5 staff) and medium size (6-15 staff) nursery where seedlings are raised individually in tubes, pots, or other receptacles.

Usually container nurseries may grow 50-250 species of plants at any one time. Without doubt, certain production volumes are required by almost every nursery, but when it comes to small to medium size nurseries, production flexibility is also very important.

It is obvious that when a variety of species of plants are propagated and grown, your nursery size  and market demand doesn't allow you to have mass production processes.

Therefore, iit is simple to conclude, that if you are a small to medium size nursery, automatic machines with mass production capabilities are not suitable for you. Flexible automatic production lines are needed to solve most of your problems to achieve lower production volumes with maximum flexibility.

5. What is the benefit of flexible production?

Here is a great article about Flexible Manufacturing Systems (FMS).

See the FMS advantages below

  • Faster & lower cost changes from one part to another which will improve capital utilization
  • Reduce direct labor cost because of the reduction in number of operators
  • Decrease inventory due to the accuracy of planning and programming
  • Consistent and better quality from automated control
  • Lower cost/unit of output, due to the greater productivity using the same number of staff
  • Savings from the indirect labor, from reduced errors, rework, repairs and rejects

6. What are the differences between automatic machines manufacturerd in Europe?

So If you have done some research and learn't something about various types of brands, different manufacturers with various machine series and models and specific products in manufactured in different locations throughout Europe, you probably know the European horticultural automation equipment is well advanced.

But you might be wondering whether they meet your “Flexibilty” requirement. The video below can answer this question (The Speaker is Da Ros International Sales Manager Fabio):

7. What are the differences between nursery automation equipment manufacturers in Europe?

In the north of Europe you can find suppliers for high production of say the same plant or flower in large green houses producing just one line. The construction of machines like Vissa, Javo, Fleeder, Mayo, Demtec, this kind of equipment manufactures supply all the equipment, all the automation for the complete greenhouse production line. For this reason they are much better than Da Ros an Italian manufacturer in southern Europe.

But why are the Italian producers strong? Because in the south of Italy and some other parts of the world like Australia which have smaller green houses with multiple types of plants in production. So the Da Ros machines have to be cheaper because small nurseries don’t have the same amount of production volume and the smaller nurseries need to have more flexibility in their machines. This is why the Italian 3-4 manufacturers like Da Ros, Ubanati, Mosa are more suited for small nurseries.

In other words, Italy is better for single unit machines but full mechanization with all the options goes to northern Europe

In Conclusion

Thanks to the flexibility of the horticulture automatic machinery, nurseries can easily switch to a different plant type, size or specification. Smaller nurseries are then able to meet the large, customer specific demands they experience in the peak season without any problems.

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