WATCH: See how firm uses ingenious method to pot 15,000 plants a day
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020
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.
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.
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.
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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 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.
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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.
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.”