Harvesting equipment can be useful tools to streamline the growing process. Below, Phil Brown, president of Phil Brown Welding, answers questions about what growers should consider when buying equipment, the benefits of conveyor systems and more.
Produce Grower: What types of harvesting equipment do you offer for greenhouse operations?
Phil Brown: What we do for the greenhouse folks are mostly conveyor belt systems. A lot of greenhouses have it where [plants are] conveyed right from where the potting soil is put in and right into the greenhouse. And when the plants are ready, they can be [moved] back to the shipping area. We make conveyors that can go up and over doorways, corner conveyers that go around edges, portable ones that plug sections together. For shipping, we make extendable conveyors that go all the way into semi-trucks and extend out.
PG: What should a grower consider when considering investing in a conveyor system?
PB: They should consider the flow of where it’s going and the aisleways. A lot of the time, we put the conveyors in aisleways, so we build ones that retract themselves so carts can go through. A grower has to figure out how often they are going to load the bays and how long it takes to move plants around to determine how practical the cost is. The more often they’ll use the conveyors, the better payback they’ll get. It’s a matter of efficiency.
PG: What advantages does having a conveyor system installed offer greenhouse operations?
PB: It’ll cut down about half of a grower's labor costs because [workers] don’t have to walk back and forth with plants. It also sets a pace so you have a constant flow of flats going in and out of the greenhouse. With a conveyor, people just need to move the plants a few feet. They aren’t having to pick them up, put them on carts and wheel them out or carry them out by hand.
PG: What steps can growers take to maintain their harvesting equipment and keep it functioning properly?
PB: Doing belt adjustments and regular maintenance — growers have to watch to make sure it’s not creeping one way or the other. There is very little maintenance with conveyor systems, as long as the tracking is maintained, and the bearings and drives stay lubricated.