Nursery Automation Road Trip Lifts Productivity
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Nursery Automation Road Trip Lifts Productivity

Dec 18, 2023 - Category : Automation

We have recently returned from an incredible road trip to visit nurseries and update growers on nursery automation.


More than 55 nurseries across the country, spanning protective cropping to outdoors, took the opportunity to discover more about the world of mechanisation.

The road trip proved beneficial for growers to meet with Italian nursery automation supplier, Da Ros. Fabio Camisa is the Senior Sales Director at Da Ros and has worked with us since 2013. This was Fabio’s seventh visit to NZ, so for many it was like reuniting with a well-regarded business mentor and friend.

Da Ros Transplanter doing the hard yards!_Main Image

Da Ros is renowned globally as the authoritative figure in nursery automation, and Fabio’s vast product knowledge and willingness to understand NZ’s unique growing environment is appreciated here. Likewise, his knowledge of emerging trends in the European nursery industry is deeply insightful for growers as they consider the merits against their own business goals.

Fabio was based in NZ for three weeks and accompanied our nursery automation specialist, Joel Wearmouth on the road trip.

Striving for efficiency…

If the pair could put a theme on the trip, it would be “striving for efficiency” – a strong desire to lift productivity and lower production costs. While the general mood among growers appeared cautious, there was also huge interest in ideas that could help them lift productivity, scale up and increase yields.

Da Ros Transplanter doing the hard yards!_2

In particular, there was enquiry around vertical farming and hydroponics. To date, NZ growers haven’t felt supported in this space, with no real ‘go to’ supplier. As one of the first manufacturing companies to believe in this new farming technology, Da Ros have taken a big leap forward with customising machinery, and Fabio took the chance to provide details to interested growers. In return, Fabio was able to hear first-hand what NZ growers would need if they choose to invest and expand into this area.

Vertical farming pioneers, Greengrower, along with premium herb grower, Superb Herb, are now in consultation with PrimeHort and Da Ros about some exciting advances that will replace old nursery systems and allow dramatic productivity gains and better uniformity and quality across their crops. Superb Herb for example have been direct sowing herbs into pots – a system that produces varying growth rates. With a new customised Da Ros Seeder for sowing into pots, the accuracy will be bulletproof and the quality and consistency of sowing will double.

Da Ros have their sights on leading the vertical farming evolution and have dedicated extensive resources into the development of the hydroponic sector. A highly specialised Business Unit has been set up to focus on customisation, performance and reliability.

In comparison to its competitors, Da Ros is a clear winner. To date, they have supplied some of the largest hydroponic growers in Europe, including Planet Farm, Agricola ModernaZERO, HydronovLife4Food and a large number of smaller hydroponic growers.

Fabio was able to explain that unlike most competitors, all manufacturing is completed in-house, including CNC machines, laser cutters, robotic welders, designers and so on. Da Ros build all their own software inhouse and employ technical software developers, which gives them the ability to “custom build” products, along with complete control on the production process. Many competitors outsource a large part of their manufacturing, so lose control along the way.

The latest Da Ros equipment can be connected directly back to their headquarters to facilitate immediate software upgrades and enable quick troubleshooting if required. This is especially important for high production, high output operations where a machine down for just one day would have a huge impact on productivity. This remote connection ability is unique to Da Ros.

Greener Growing…

The trip also reinforced the importance of greener growing. Awareness and a willingness to make advances in the sustainability space is here to stay. Growers were keen to know what is out there, and how it might improve their business practices. Questions arose for nursery pot washing technology, or whether a move to a paper pot growing system is feasible.

Having Fabio on the ground was beneficial for discussing options and for him to see first-hand what might be required for NZ conditions. Europe is a vastly different and larger environment than NZ, but for our size and intensely competitive field, Fabio feels we have some of the best growers in the game. He finds NZ growers to be innovative and curious. There are still people in both camps e.g. those who like the hands-on approach, versus those who continually look for ways to improve efficiencies through automation.

Nursery automation investment is significant and must be economically viable and environmentally sustainable where possible. Any new tech needs to dramatically reduce land and water usage, shorten supply chains to minimise waste, and provide optimised supply all-year of quality crop production. But just as important is strong customer service – and this road trip helped build trust by demonstrating that a full circle of service is available from our team at PrimeHort and Da Ros. From the initial consultation regarding new machinery, to customisation and installation, staff training and after sales support – the care and knowledge is here.

Fabio had the closing note:

Customers like PrimeHort make us proud of our work and encourage us to do better. Joel has achieved excellent work over all these years, his contribution has certainly been an added value for the growth of our company. I hope to see NZ growers very soon for another interesting business trip.”

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