SYSTEM THAT REDUCES LABOUR COSTS IN CUCUMBER CULTIVATION
The Netherlands and Canada are the countries with the most high-tech greenhouses for cucumber cultivation. Productivity is very high, and the best growers are able to produce 700-800 tonnes/ha (70 to 80 kg/m²). This means that the plants grow to a height of several metres, and therefore need to be secured to twine, to enable the plant to grow vertically.
First trials with cucumber plants
Traditionally, cucumber plants were secured using plastic clips, or simply by twisting the stem around the twine. At times, particularly in summer, this isn’t easy and there is a high risk that the plant head will break, causing a loss in production. Furthermore, twisting the stem increases plant stress and makes it more difficult for the plant to take in water and nutrients through the roots. Three years ago, Agrifastbegan to run trials in the Netherlands with a new electric clipping tool, originally designed for use with tomatoes. The main difference between this and the plastic clip method is the material used. As it was designed for tomatoes, the interior diameter of the metal staple was 21 mm, like the plastic clips for tomatoes. However, cucumber plants have a smaller stem diameter than tomato plants, so the plastic clips used for cucumbers can have a diameter of 14 mm.
Clipping cucumber plants: a success story
In the 2014 season, Dutch producer Jan Reijm began a small trial: “I thought it could work. First, we tried it out with a single row, to see if there was any damage to the crop, and then increased the number of rows to see if the system worked when the plants were lowered. A ring placed every 40-50 centimetres is enough to support the plants”. Once Jan Reijm confirmed that it was technically possible, the focus was on speeding up the clipping process. “We were used to tying cucumbers at the rate of 1,000-1,200 plants per hour.
When we started to work with Tomsystem, at the beginning the speed of work was the same, but after a few weeks of using these tools the workers began to get used to them, and so to work faster week on week.” “In order to increase speed, it was essential to use a tool balancer. The Tomsystem tool is hooked onto a metal wire, so that the worker does not have to bear the weight of the tool for 8 hours a day. By the end of the season they were able to clip 1,500-1,600 plants per hour, so labour costs were reduced.
Tying the plants is one of the most labour-intensive tasks, as it has to be done each week during the growing season, and in summer more frequently, sometimes as often as every 3-4 days. This is why a 25-30% increase in the speed at which this task is carried out represents a substantial saving in terms of labour costs. The staples do not damage the plants in any way. In the wake of the first very positive experience in the Netherlands, many producers both there and in other countries showed interest in the system for the 2015 season. “We always prefer to ask growers to try it out themselves with their workers, but the enthusiasm is so great that sometimes they just want to start using the system without even doing a small-scale trial first,” explains Dirk-Jan Haas, manager of DJ Products/Hortiware and exclusive agent for the Tom Agrifast System in the Netherlands.
Want to find out more?
Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information by using our contact form, or alternatively:
Agrifast/Tomsystem: Alberto Lizarraga
Dirk-Jan Haas (Holanda)
Phone +31 6 59 69 56 54