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WATCH: See how firm uses ingenious method to pot 15,000 plants a day

PUBLISHED: 06:00 11 August 2020 | UPDATED: 11:09 11 August 2020

Stephen Harris, summer temp placing the plants on the conveyor belt into the tunnel at Robin Tacchi Plants. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Stephen Harris, summer temp placing the plants on the conveyor belt into the tunnel at Robin Tacchi Plants. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

Is this the sushi restaurant of gardening? Or, for those old enough to remember it, like something from television’s The Generation Game – but with no cuddly toy.

Joe Tacchi, managing director of Robin Tacchi Plants. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYJoe Tacchi, managing director of Robin Tacchi Plants. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A Norfolk firm has installed a conveyor belt that travels for almost a kilometre around its nursery to solve the problem of potting plants.

Robin Tacchi Plants – with bases in Garboldisham, near Diss and Illington, near East Harling – grows 3,500 different varieties of plants for sale to big commercial customers including the Lawn Tennis Association’s base at Wimbledon.

But now the process is much quicker thanks to the conveyor belt system.

Dorota Whitby, nursery site assistant, takes the plants from the conveyor belt in the tunnel at Robin Tacchi Plants. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYDorota Whitby, nursery site assistant, takes the plants from the conveyor belt in the tunnel at Robin Tacchi Plants. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Rather than laboriously planting into pots by hand and then transport them to the nursery for further growth before distribution, boss Joe Tacchi has hit on an idea inspired by the Yo! Sushi Japanese restaurants.

A conveyor belt system – like the one used to deliver sushi dishes to awaiting customers – transports thousands of plants from one site to another.

The conveyor belt of plants. Pic; Robin Tacchi PlantsThe conveyor belt of plants. Pic; Robin Tacchi Plants

The robot system is also used to dig a hole in the soil and the plant is dropped in. A human then puts it on the conveyor belt where it travels more than 500 metres to be taken off at the other end and put in the nursery.

The system is used for all kinds of plants but currently one litre liriopes, a flowering grass used for ground cover, are using the belt.

Joe Tacchi, managing director, who took over the business from his father which now has a £3.3m turnover, said: “The conveyor belt cuts two-three people from the system but more importantly, time as we are potting 12,000-15,000 plants a day. We’ve got four acres and we grow to order.”

He said that it wasn’t because of coronavirus that the system had been put in and that they had now unfurlouged all their 40 staff after being closed for three months. The firm was started up by Mr Tacchi’s father Robin in 1983 and has expanded from a small nursery run by him and one other person to the major enterprise it is today supplying plants for huge customers in London including the Olympic Park at Stratford and Battersea Power Station.

The conveyor belt system at Robin Tacchi Plants. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe conveyor belt system at Robin Tacchi Plants. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mr Tacchi said they supplied many large property developments – which need landscaping with no time to grow plants themselves.

He added: “Instant plants are definitely a trend – we are now selling hedging which you buy from us in a bag and literally put in the ground.”

Dorota Whitby, nursery site assistant, takes the plants from the conveyor belt in the tunnel at Robin Tacchi Plants. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYDorota Whitby, nursery site assistant, takes the plants from the conveyor belt in the tunnel at Robin Tacchi Plants. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Joe Tacchi, managing director of Robin Tacchi Plants, with one of the conveyer belts used in his nursery to move the plants around easily. With him are Dorota Whitby, nursery site assistant, and Stephen Harris, summer temp. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYJoe Tacchi, managing director of Robin Tacchi Plants, with one of the conveyer belts used in his nursery to move the plants around easily. With him are Dorota Whitby, nursery site assistant, and Stephen Harris, summer temp. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Jason Whaley and Georgina Dickenson, summer temps, pot lavender plants in the potting shed at Robin Tacchi Plants. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYJason Whaley and Georgina Dickenson, summer temps, pot lavender plants in the potting shed at Robin Tacchi Plants. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The conveyor belt of plants. Pic; Robin Tacchi PlantsThe conveyor belt of plants. Pic; Robin Tacchi Plants

The conveyor belt of plants. Pic; Robin Tacchi PlantsThe conveyor belt of plants. Pic; Robin Tacchi Plants


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