Sunday, October 23, 2011

Farm Lab Friday- Field Trip- Greenheart Farms

Another Friday at the school's farm lab passed, but this one was special.  Instead of the usual manual labor, dirt under the fingernails, in the shoes, and on the clothes; we took a charter bus over to the coast.  Our mission, to see one of the best commercial transplant growing facilities in the state, Greenheart Farms.  The same generous folks that donated all those vegetable transplants to our class at the beginning of the semester.  This day was so amazing that I have to break up the day's events into multiple posts.

Greenheart Farms Seed House Tour
 Here, we are joined by our tour guide Greenheart Farms Sales Manager Paul Hertel (center).

You may be able to see large white container bags in the distance (right side) of the picture above.  Each big bag holds up to 3000 kg (that's 6610 lbs) of perlite, coconut fiber, or peat moss.  They're mixed together in the seed room to become Greenheart's transplant soil medium.  I don't know the percentages, nor do I know what other additives they use to make their proprietary blend, but rest assured, it's perfect.  I saw literally tens of thousands of transplants and could see NO empty tray cells. 
 Big container bag up close.
 This room is part of the "Seed House".  Here, you can see the soil components mixing and climbing an elevator toward their destination, seed trays.  (You may also see my friend and fellow classmate Damian in this frame.  Hi Damian!)

 The soil is carried overhead and drops into the next room.

 down this tunnel, into a machine

 that siphons it and packs it into transplant seedling trays

 The machine fills them perfect, every time.  Mr. Hertel told us a story about the importance of precision soil placement.  If the machine were to overfill trays, it would lead to economic losses for farmers because overfilling cells causes root netting (roots grow into eachothers trays).  This would dramatically slow down field workers pulling them from trays.  They'd have to waste precious time separating each plant before inserting them into the machines that plant them in the field.  Time is money.

 Speaking of precision... This machine consists of 144 hoses and a vacuum.  It vacuums up 144 seeds and places one in each cell.  It does this perfectly, every time; no matter how small or large the seed.  It can be calibrated for seed size and shape. It's amazing to watch, it never makes a mistake.

Here, seeded trays move toward misters that moisten the soil and then outside to be stacked on special made pallets.

 Here, the seed trays await stacking

Palleted, waiting to be set in a greenhouse or field to grow.  The profit margins are so small in this industry that trays are not generally seeded, until they are sold.  No waste.  The trays each hold 144 seedlings and pallets hold 12 trays.  (In this picture there are more than 90,000 seeded cells that are going to become 90,000 plants).  This tour was a real eye opener into the industry.  There is no room for error, that's why so much of the process is automated. Precision is essential.  Farmers can't and won't afford poor quality products, so transplant growers can't afford to make mistakes.

Thanks again to Mr. Paul Hertel and Greenheart Farms for taking the time to share this amazing operation with our class.  Stay tuned for my next post about our trip to Greenheart Farms Greenhouses. They are working on some fantastic projects.

Thanks for visiting, I hope you stop by again. Please leave a comment!


  1. How cool! I love when you share stuff from Farm Lab Friday, it is always so informative! Looking forward to seeing the greenhouses!

  2. Thanks Candy. Just got em up.


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