Stuppy Greenhouse Blog

Reducing Labor Costs: Not Laborers

Posted by admin on Feb 16, 2015 1:38:07 PM

A common misconception in reducing labor costs is that you have to reduce your staff. Not true. When we talk about reducing labor costs, it’s really the labor cost per plant. The suggestions that we are making are to help your staff and optimize their time and energies while working. There are three ways that we have found most effective when talking to our customers.

Drip irrigation:
Depending on the size of the greenhouse, watering all those plants can take an excessive period of time. The easiest way and maybe best way is to use drip irrigation. Drip irrigation puts water straight to the root of the plants where they need it most. Most growers put their drip irrigation on a timer to accurately deliver water to sections of plants depending on their watering and growth needs. This is an extremely reliable way to water your plants and it saves more water. The floor stays drier, reducing slip hazards to employees, and the plants are dry so there is little chance of diseases and mold due to water on the leaves.
Boom sprayers may wash out top soil and splashes plants which could lead to fungus, mold, and foliar diseases. Wet leaves can also sunburn.
With hand watering, even with careful application by experienced workers, as much as 50 percent of the water that exits a hose ends up on the floor. Efficiency and uniformity can be greatly improved by using water-saver saucers or trays that catch much of the water that would otherwise miss the pot. These trays retain water so it can be absorbed from the bottom up.

Automation in a greenhouse can be beneficial, depending on your operations, but there are three important things to remember. The first and most common misconception is that buying a machine does not replace the laborers that did that job before. It will help deploy labor in other areas where it is needed. Do not expect immediate satisfaction. All good things take time. This leads me to point three, install during the off season. You will need to take time and figure it out and maybe even *gasp* read the manual.

Computer controls:
Toss around the idea of a control system regulating the temperature in your greenhouse. The idea that temperature control is now the touch of a button instead of employees walking around opening vents, rolling down curtains, turning on the wet wall, checking fans, and double checking the temperature. You will still need a visual inspection but the savings per year, based on a three acre block, is around $2,500.
Reducing labor costs is a great option to add to your profits after your ROI kicks in. This does take time but stick with it and see the dollars add up!

Topics: greenhouse automation, greenhouse labor costs, greenhouse labor, reduce labor costs, drip irrigation, greenhouse watering, greenhouse controls, control systems, greenhouse maintenance, seasonal greenhouse maintenance

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