Trevor Hardy: I’m Trevor Hardy Brookdale Fruit Farm. I’m the seventh generation of my family here running and operating our farm. And we also have Brookdale Farm Supplies, which is the largest agricultural commodity supplier here in the Northeast. And we are a diversified fruit and vegetable farm here in New Hampshire, growing over 500 acres of fruits and vegetables, and also about 12 acres certified organic.
Andy Chamberlin: I’m your host, Andy Chamberlin, and I take you behind the scenes with growers who share their strategy for achieving the triple bottom line of sustainability. These interviews unravel how they’re building their business to balance success across people, profits, and our planet.
Today’s episode comes to you from Hollis, New Hampshire, where we visit with Trevor Hardy of Brookdale Fruit Farm. However, today we got a tour of his farm supplies business. This conversation takes you on a walking tour where myself, Chris Callahan, and Hans Estrin, visit with Trevor to see what equipment he’s got in his buildings and what new technology he’s bringing into the States. If you’d like to see photos or videos from this visit, be sure to check out the show notes so you can get a look at everything we are seeing.
Each episode gets its own webpage at thefarmersshare.com, so you can experience the site visit right along with us. This episode was recorded in April of 2022, so pricing and availability of things that we’re talking about is likely different from what you’re hearing today, but it will give you a rough idea of what to expect on this side of the industry. We start off this episode next to their apple packing line and the controlled atmosphere rooms. And then pretty quickly we walk into the newly built warehouse addition and hear about all the different ways you can spend your hard-earned cash to improve or switch up your farming systems. So with that, This is The Farmer’s Share.
Trevor Hardy: So the fun stuff was we just finished packing apples. We just finished delivering yesterday, so all of last year’s crops gone. We finished packing about a week and a half ago, so we put everything back-
Speaker 3: Do you always cover up with plastic between seasons?
Trevor Hardy: Yeah. You know why?
Speaker 3: Why?
Trevor Hardy: So stainless dust, everything else when you want to get going, just rip it off and go. That keeps all the trash. You can fold into it and go. So whenever you’re putting your equipment away for the year, you always put it away clean. And if you’re having other traffic, like now that this isn’t a packaging area, so this is part warehouse, you can do whatever. So it keeps all the stuff off. So when the food safety folks come around and look at stuff for inspections and things, everything’s put away. So like my veggie line in season is in here with the floor drains. Everything’s movable. All the power and all the water’s up top. There’s my rinse conveyor, all the other stuff’s put away. You can see when you run out of space, stuff’s in the way.
Speaker 3: What are those tarps for?
Trevor Hardy: Those aren’t tarps, those are expansion chambers. So for all the controlled atmosphere, CA rooms, when we seal the doors up there tight, they’re atmospheric chambers.
Speaker 3: Gotcha.
Trevor Hardy: So they expand and contract with the weather when the room’s sealed up-
Speaker 3: Ladders, yeah.
Trevor Hardy: Exactly. It’s expansion chambers. So I only have one cooler running now that’s full of trees because we just finished that stuff, so it’s not full-full but we’re waiting on another delivery from the West Coast so we can get rid of all that stuff.
Speaker 3: Are these all apple?
Trevor Hardy: Apple and peach, but there’s nine rooms this size, but with all the FSMA junk, all your condensates got to go out now or used to keep the floor wet and all that other stuff. So that makes it really hard, you have to do a double loop with a controlled atmosphere cooler, but there’s not many people running that type of storage now. It’s like when you were looking at Harlow’s thing and you go over with Corey and look at their new packer, you look at the old cooler at Allen Brothers, you see all the loose with the ammonia. That was his biggest problem when they were getting the floor drain in there for the water to go, because it had a double loop and all the dirt was getting washed from the carrots and the root vegetables, and they’d have to have a plumber in the [inaudible].
Speaker 3: A double P. Is it double P-trap? What do you mean by-
Trevor Hardy: Yeah, it’s a double loop because of the-
Speaker 3: Because of the ammonia.
Trevor Hardy: Not because of the ammonia, because when we used to flood the floor and depending on the exchanging environment in the wintertime and weather systems coming through, that water will move with pressure systems in the room. So you have to have a double P-trap because if you don’t have a big enough expansion bag, it creates pressure.
Speaker 3: Pressure. Wow.
Trevor Hardy: So here when I’m done evaporating and I’m in long-term storage, I literally have to shut the EVAP off because once it’s dry, it’s not generating more water, but to pressure test it and stuff in the season, you do it. Once it’s done, you have to shut it. But every year they have to do half hour, 12 pound pressure tests and not lose more than two PSI.
Speaker 3: For your CA room.
Trevor Hardy: So you seal yourself up in there, blow it up with a Shop-Vac, you watch it on the thing and can’t lose more than two PSI in a half an hour, and it’s considered certified.
Speaker 3: And the apple line.
Trevor Hardy: Yeah.
Speaker 3: Have you had many changes to it over the years?
Trevor Hardy: Yeah, we just had to spend $40,000 and build this stainless tank last year.
Speaker 3: I thought that was new. Okay.
Trevor Hardy: It’s the same model, but it’s all stainless. And I mean, a new apple line right now to do what we do is like a million and a half because you have to get optical sorters and everything. So the dunk tank and those portions are half of it, but part of what we care about with FSMA when you’re talking about foam, and changing, and other things, because everything’s wet through here. Then we’ve got a dryer, then we’ve got two drying areas. So after here, foam is a different story because it doesn’t carry the water. So what they wanted on our last inspection is we change foam yearly, and some of it has the plastic hardness on top, so they just want the dates on it. So I have to take a paint marker and date it so they know when you’ve changed it and you have a record history more than a spreadsheet or something so you can see it. That’s simple.
Speaker 3: Yeah. So you don’t have any drying donuts?
Trevor Hardy: Drying donuts?
Speaker 3: So the foam rollers?
Trevor Hardy: No.
Speaker 3: You use air primarily
Trevor Hardy: Air and there’s another air column that sits over this.
Speaker 3: A drying belt? Okay. Yeah.
Trevor Hardy: So when they roll over this, this is an inspection table. So first you have your sizing chain. Depending on the apples when we’re packing, there’s this and a brusher, which is just a brusher that catches stuff in here. Then we have another inspection and drying table, and you can see where the water and the acid comes out the floor. That’s where it’s chewed the most. So then it goes through our lining belt, and then off we go. This is our biggest influencer. Now, there’s still 27 of these machines being used in the East Coast, so there’s still parts and stuff. This is from the early ’70s, but in here is what’s called lining belts. See these black belts?
Speaker 3: Yeah.
Trevor Hardy: That’s what spins the apples. They sit on wood frames. So I have to get this, which is four inch by four inch at a special angle, and then curve with an arc. We’re making that out of plastic. That’s the only thing that we’ve really had to change. And then they go through our sizing cups, which we calibrate every year, and then on the center table, and all the cardboard and all the junks off of it now.
Speaker 3: Do you know of many people doing dry lines for apples?
Trevor Hardy: There’s a couple. Three or four other people did it, but the trouble is bruising. So even when you dry with certain fruit, September, October, maybe November, it’s not that bad with regular storage. But once you get to longer term storage, you’re dealing with greater changes in the fruit. So yeah, there’s different things. You remember all the old stuff. So this is the foray into the new stuff.
Speaker 3: Okay. This is new construction for you. All right.
Trevor Hardy: So on the other side of this curtain goes into our new 30,000 square foot warehouse.
Speaker 3: All right. I haven’t been here since that.
Trevor Hardy: So we still use four or five of the coolers to store farm supplies now, like that room’s full of plastic, that room’s full of fertilizer, the blue room’s full of organic fertilizer. Some of the other ones are still full. We’re still utilizing this space for stuff because my new building’s not big enough in a year and a half.
Speaker 3: Wait, say that again. The new building’s not big enough.
Trevor Hardy: After year and half.
Speaker 3: A year and a half.
Trevor Hardy: So this is our forklift connection hallway where we had to connect two buildings. And we added a big building on the back. This is our aisleway services for bits and piece part storage. And if you were here a month ago, you would really see why the building is not big enough. Right now, it looks like it has a little bit of space because we’re waiting on things and stuff’s moving so fast, but right now it’s not. So we get a small little transition because of roof lines.
Speaker 3: Oh yeah.
Trevor Hardy: But it’s 120 by two 40 just on this one, so there’s a little bit of stuff. And yeah, there’s some more vertical things, but some things like plastic and other stuff, it doesn’t do you any good because of weight load because the floor is over a foot thick because of stacking stuff. But some things can go on pallet racking, some things you’re better off just to stack not more than three high and put them in rows.
Speaker 3: Just stability or?
Trevor Hardy: Yeah, because if fill that full of weight, there’s 3,000 pound pallets and you’re turning in and out, and in and out, and unloading it all the time. That’s where you got to look at your high movers and your low movers. Are we fully optimized? No, but you got to work on it.
Speaker 3: So is this heated?
Trevor Hardy: No, it’s insulated in the ceiling. This fall, summer, fall, we’re finishing the walls. But even with the coldest temperatures last year, the cold’s never got in here. Even with the doors open, it was like 29.
Speaker 3: Wow.
Trevor Hardy: So all the liquid goes in the other side of the wall. That’s why everything’s got curtains. Those curtains are amazing what they keep for heat. It’s just the maintenance, every three or four years they get so dusty. Plastic curtains, you got to change them. I have the bathrooms and the build room heated, but.
Andy Chamberlin: Is there insulation in this, in the outer wall?
Trevor Hardy: There’s insulation in the ceiling.
Andy Chamberlin: But not the outer wall.
Trevor Hardy: Not in the wall. We have it planned for the wall, but the contractor was late and was going to push me back another two months and we had to be in here. So then I’ve got two storage trailers full of all the insulation and it’s just timing with him and to come back and do it. So yeah.
Andy Chamberlin: Last time I was here, this was barely done, I think. Is that correct? That was like-
Trevor Hardy: We finished it in March or April of early ’20, and then progressed from there.
Speaker 3: Any idea what the rough cost per square foot was or will be?
Trevor Hardy: I won’t compare it to now. If I had to do it now, it’d be double, the whole entire project because it’s two acres of impermeable service, so I had to do impermeable surface. So we had to do water drainage collection and all that other junk. And when we were spreading all that around and doing that, I mean, the whole project was over about five, but I built two other buildings too. So it’s not a small thing when you’re doing stuff, but we can come back and look at the materials and just look around. So there’s seven loading docks.
Andy Chamberlin: Yeah. How is this floor finished? Polished?
Trevor Hardy: Polished.
Andy Chamberlin: Just polished.
Trevor Hardy: They’re supposed to polish the aisleway, but that was one of the ones that got screwed up. So with forklifts and stuff moving across, all of this is level in our thresholds. We actually sanded down so water wouldn’t come back in, so it moves around. But the one place where everybody cheaps out, where I shouldn’t have, I should have put a power dock at all seven spots [inaudible].
Andy Chamberlin: A leveler? Yeah.
Trevor Hardy: Yeah. But they’re 12 grand a pop.
Andy Chamberlin: Yeah. And you don’t have issues with slippiness if it gets wet.
Trevor Hardy: Not with the amount of forklifts and traffic we’ve got.
Andy Chamberlin: Yeah.
Trevor Hardy: So just as a logistics thing, big bulky items that other people have like row cover, it all goes in the storage trailers just because you can’t move it around any other direction. Tape, plastic, this is going to be a shortage for the year.
Speaker 3: What is this?
Trevor Hardy: Pints, quartz.
Speaker 3: Oh yeah.
Trevor Hardy: I already brought in three containers last November. I ordered two trailer loads for May delivery. They pushed me out well until the end of July now.
Speaker 3: Like pulp form?
Trevor Hardy: Yep. And wood, I got a trailer full of wood and that’s it.
Speaker 3: Wow.
Trevor Hardy: I’m supposed to get three, but they come off of Nova Scotia, and with the trucking and the freight and all that other stuff. So that is what I have left for now till mid-July. And there was nine rows here all the way out to here.
Andy Chamberlin: Bring your own container, berry picking.
Trevor Hardy: Well, people haven’t gotten them now. That’s one of the things. Containers and cardboard, there’s no shortage with plastic or drip tape or any of the commodity planting goods. The biggest variable cost everybody’s going to face this year is the containers and the cardboard along with fertilizer. So yeah, we saw maybe 20% to 30% increase on hard goods that we’re using to grow stuff. Row covers stayed relatively flat, plastic and drip tape went up with the amount of plastic in it, but for the increase over the last 10 years, we haven’t really varied much. Regular tape used to be around 145, 150 bucks a roll. Went up just shy of $30, but that’s not that bad per acre.
Speaker 3: But paper and cardboard.
Trevor Hardy: But paper and cardboard, Amazon and all the other stuff that people boxes, usually we move about 20 containers or trailer loads of generic cardboard through ourselves and everybody else to cover New England from three different cardboard manufacturers, and I haven’t gotten three trailers yet.
Speaker 3: Wow. Geez.
Trevor Hardy: So that’s that materials and stuff. So given all this space, I still have 27 trailers full. Now, some things live in trailers like bushel boxes, baskets, and that kind of stuff. That’s usually around eight. But we still have lots of stuff full. And the yard is actually a little bit open right now because I had a large… A month ago, we had soil all the way out to here with 12 trailer loads of soil sitting here on the ground. But tomato stakes is getting problematic. So whether you get Pine or Eucalyptus, all this stuff coming from Central America up to Florida with the two importers, and when it comes up here, a flatbed trailer from Florida to here is $5,400 right now. So that added 30 cents per stake roughly.
Andy Chamberlin: Wow.
Speaker 3: Whoa.
Trevor Hardy: So when we used to sell a 48-inch pointed stake for 70 cents, they’re now like a dollar.
Speaker 3: Wow. And just shipping charges.
Trevor Hardy: Just in shipping. So on an average year we bring in six trailer loads of stakes. We’ve gotten four so far, moved probably two. I’ve got two left, and people are starting to look at costs adding up. And with farming this year for 2022, the farmer’s not going to be able to absorb all of the cost, but they can’t turn all that back over to price, right?
Speaker 3: Right.
Trevor Hardy: So we have to determine what that fine line is and what we want to make.
Speaker 3: So ballpark, on average, average order costs, what they’ve increased with all the uptick.
Trevor Hardy: About 20.
Speaker 3: 20%?
Trevor Hardy: Yeah. Some things are lower, some things are higher, but ballpark, it’s around a 20% overall. And that’s not just me. If you can look at everybody else’s numbers and stuff too, it’s right around-
Speaker 3: So you think this 8.5% number that came out last week was a little low in terms of ag supplies?
Trevor Hardy: Oh, very low. My own fertilizer. Two trailer loads, we get custom mixed stuff and things. Last year the two trailer loads was just shy of a little over 30 grand, it was 100 grand.
Speaker 3: Wow.
Trevor Hardy: Because there’s a lot of custom blend. We make stuff for each field and things. So yeah, we can talk about that and some other equipment. So this was my tractor barn, which ends up being half storage for supplies too. So in the wintertime I get all 47 tractors in here and some of the trucks and stuff, try to make one location for things, but we’re going to outgrow this building too. Yeah, there’s a few things sitting in there. Like that’s a new six cylinder rainbow pump. That’s one left of 12 that are coming right now, but that’s set up for auto starts because anything new that’s tier three or tier four has electronic throttle control and they have potentiometers for turning the throttle up and down. So that really aids itself and the auto starts for diesel, so you’re not stuck on linear actuators or stuff to move motors up, it’s electronic, so makes stuff easier.
But as far as new things to look at, apple-wise, because there’s equipment all over the way, this is as farmers are going to more automation, this is half of one of our platforms. This is for apples, this is a self-driving, steering, leveling harvest platform and also training platform from REVO. So each compartment here goes up down, in and out about 12 feet. So we have the picking assistant off of it now for the wintertime for pruning and for tree training. So when we’re pruning, each person moves independently in their basket. Then you have two other guys sitting here. So all of our rows are set up for automation.
So we hedge first, then this thing sets its own speed and pace and go out with four people and set the speed of work and off they prune and nobody has to drive it or anything. It uses sonic steering off of the edges of the trees and can actually tilt up to 12 degrees and keep itself level. And it only has a six gallon fuel tank because it works off a little three cylinder diesel and everything runs off of hydraulics. That six gallons lasts about four days, so it’s very efficient.
Speaker 3: Wow. So you said for pruning and training, not harvesting?
Trevor Hardy: Nope. So for harvesting, we use it, but it’s not set up right now. There’s a belt and a whole conveyor and all that stuff. I think I showed that to Andy before. I got videos. That sits here, so it carries three apple bins with it and the fourth is spinning and harvesting. The guys pick on belts with no buckets and it reduces bruising by over 20%.
Speaker 3: Wow.
Trevor Hardy: Trouble is, you need one per 40 to 50 acres depending on how you spread your varieties out and doing it. And we’re talking my kind of acreage with what these cost, that’s a small fortunes, so that’s why we’re only playing with a couple of them.
Speaker 3: Yeah. So how much do they cost?
Trevor Hardy: That’s about 100, but that’s with the picking assistant and everything. There’s people in Western New York and other locations that buy just training platforms that still go to picking. But for us with lots of varieties and looking at advantages, it’s talking about bruising reduction and total changing of harvest. So guys don’t wear picking buckets anymore, they’re only holding four or five apples in their hands and putting it on a conveyor belt that’s filling a bin, all that reduced touch time saves you immense quality of fruit, especially when you’re pulling it out of coolers in March and April to ship it.
Speaker 3: That’s one less food contact service from the FSMA perspective too.
Trevor Hardy: Exactly.
Speaker 3: Well, more than one.
Trevor Hardy: There’s lots of FSMA improvements, there’s improvements everywhere.
Speaker 3: Nevermind.
Trevor Hardy: And whether it’s in plastic bins or wood bins, you’ve got all that stuff. So there’s that. We’ve got a two row, no till Monosem planter that we set up. This is on 36 that does all the specialty stuff. We’ll offset it when we do beets and carrots and do a four row. But when we use this machine, we roll and crimp ahead of time. But what’s really unique is the row closers here, I had to import these components from France, the Monosem. So these are the only ones that are existing in the country other than Steve Groff out in Pennsylvania. So this changes spring tension, but this changes the angle of the wheel. So when you’re working on a lot of no-till crops, you can really figure out how you want to change and close that seed row.
Andy Chamberlin: Depending how much biomass you’re working with.
Trevor Hardy: Biomass, soil, moisture conditions, there’s all sorts of things. And you can tell on a feet, so when you change that angle, you can do more front pitching. So that’s better for larger seeds where we’re going in deep. When we got smaller seeds, you really want to have it more in the back so it closes but lifts at the same time. So if there’s any clogs or anything like that, it’s not affecting how it’s closing the trench. And then this is your spring tension and we like the solid and the CurveTine. So we’ve worked with all different components.
The row cleaners in the front don’t do much, but adding the ProPress wheel is a big thing too, which is this big steel wheel here. Other people would call it similar to a seed firmer, but that being a rolling piece makes a defined seed trench bottom when you’re going through it. That’s a huge difference. Where the Keeton Seed Firmer and all that other stuff, they kind of bounce like a spring, that rolls it in so you really get the right seed place.
Andy Chamberlin: That’s tied to the frame.
Trevor Hardy: Yep. So you can do lots of different stuff, but with the two row we roll and crimp with our four row and our roller crimper first and then go back with this with cover crops just because this does the small precise stuff and it’s easier to do with the Monosem. All of our four rows for all the sweet corn is a different setup. But we do everything from beets, carrots, radishes, and stuff with this. And when you offset it, everything on 36, we’ll do a 18-inch row and just do two passes composed to getting a whole ‘nother plant just to do something. Yeah, it’s another pass but if you set your spacing of all your tractors up the same, that’s what we do. We have vegetable tractors, we have fruit tractors, and all of them are set up for two different row centers other than my big boy.
Andy Chamberlin: How does something like this do with rocks of this size or it’s just-
Trevor Hardy: If you’re doing no-till, that’s your job in the fall, which has been, we’ve been doing no-till for 14 years now. And the biggest cultural change for us was in the fall, before you plant the cover crop, you have to change that labor utilization and get the rocks off then. Because if you’re thinking about doing that after you’re rolling crimp, you’re not going to see half of them. And it took a long time to change that mindset, so picking labor in the middle of the-
Speaker 3: Are you just brute-forcing that or are you using a rock picker or something?
Trevor Hardy: Well, New Hampshire. Rocks is our best crop.
Speaker 3: Yeah, right.
Trevor Hardy: I’ve got every type of soil you can think of from beach sand down by the river to solid shale ledge that we grow through. And I’ve never had good luck with rock rakes or rock pickers. For us, it’s still all by hand, farm worker power.
Andy Chamberlin: Good training.
Trevor Hardy: Backhoe and big stuff. So right now we still zone build everything before we went to no-till. And we’ve been finding after five or six years with all the last two years being kind of wet and everything else being dry, we can’t just stick to no-till. Every four or five years I have to zone till to really help some of that soil compaction, no matter what you do. And it depends on soil type, but some fields, so we’ll have to go through and get some big stones with the backhoe or the excavator, but that’s the crop that keeps on giving. We’ve had to dynamite a part literally.
Speaker 3: Wow.
Trevor Hardy: I had one with an excavator, my TW25 and my 4100 for three out of four hooked a sheet ledge and pulled the whole thing up and we couldn’t move it, and then we couldn’t pound it so we had to blow it up.
Andy Chamberlin: You were telling me about that. Yeah.
Speaker 3: That must have been fun.
Trevor Hardy: That was fun, but you can’t buy dynamite like you used to. So there’s that. Everybody’s got their ideas with cultivation right now. There’s lots of new cultivation tools out there, we play with them. Everybody asked me, “Why aren’t you doing lots of different things with cultivation?” And part of us where we’re doing a lot of reduced till and no-till, there was advantages in the ’90s when we were really looking at plasticulture as a reduction in weeding. And since we’re not, I’ve only got six certified acres organic and that’s not our primary focus. We use a lot of biodegradable plastic as our weeding solution. So with that, we’re not doing anywhere near as much cultivation. Even with the direct seeded things like lettuces, onions, and stuff, we have a new trial machine coming from Italy. It’s called the MODULA. It’s a through-plastic precision vacuum planter.
Speaker 3: Wow.
Trevor Hardy: They’re coming the end of June for our field day that’s coming on the next container here. And we’re able to do that over the rows of plastics. So that’ll change how we direct seed all crops, but also early crops. So we can do sweet corn early through black plastic instead of white plastic and get the weed barrier there. Other thing is that you can go over the whole rows. It won the 2021 Innovation Award. And since we’re their only distribution and importer agent in the US I’ve got one, I sold two to Canada, I’ve got one coming here for demo, I’ve got one in Ohio, and I’ve got one going to Iowa. And we only had certain distribution partners because it’s so new that they’re trialing it. And then, it’s going to hit the market here pretty hard in ’23 and ’24
Andy Chamberlin: And those seedlings coming up, they can find the hole they went through?
Trevor Hardy: Yeah, because the machine, it’s almost like a beak tooth water wheel with a vacuum planter. So it pokes the hole and it has a very light closing wheel behind it to press it in, and you can set that precision depth of the machine so you can really get it in there and it’ll find through the hole because the beak is making the hole putting the seed in and there’s different beak sides. We can look at a video on it later, but-
Speaker 3: It’s got a good guide.
Trevor Hardy: Yeah, it’s got a real good guide. But that’s going to change some of the way we do things. And not that cultivation is good or bad, but the biggest problem we have with doing more and more innovations and cultivation, and that’s where I see some of this biodynamic farming, and NRCS going the opposite directions, is with our total soil health mission, reduced till no-till, that doesn’t include lots of cultivation. That’s kind of the opposite. So how do you do that with a crop like lettuce or how do you do that with a quick turn crop like that silage tarping and all that stuff? Yeah, that does things for soil health, but when you get into a season where we’ve got an excess weed seed bank you’re trying to go around, there’s different characteristics there.
Speaker 3: You’ve got problems still.
Trevor Hardy: And that’s where that cedar with our new one-pass machine, that’s really what you want to see. So either full circle, Full Belly, one of the guys up there, Steven.
Speaker 3: Full Belly.
Andy Chamberlin: Full Belly.
Trevor Hardy: Full Belly. He just got the one pass multi machine. I had to remember it. So he just got one of these in Vermont for you, so this is the-
Andy Chamberlin: He received it?
Trevor Hardy: Yeah, he’s been laying plastic with it for a week.
Andy Chamberlin: Oh, I’ll have to go.
Trevor Hardy: So I told him after I saw you guys are going to want to see it. So this is the other innovation that we started with two years ago. So this is more than just the stone barrier that you’ve seen. This is everything. So we have the reverse tiller stone burier, fertilizer hopper for both conventional and organic. Then back here we have a bed-forming hood. Then we hydraulically form up our bed. You can incorporate one to three lines of drip tape, then layer plastic. You can do all of this in one pass. The good and the bad about this machine is it’s very long, so you have to have a tractor with a bucket and some heavy weight. When you do things in one pass, you always have to do trial, do a row or two first and plan on going back to get everything adjusted, get it there.
But the good and bad about one pass is it’s not faster, it’s slower, but it saves you a lot of fuel and time. So you have to wait for the right weather conditions and right things. It’s not a tool for every year, but in rotation and timing of things, it’s the right tool. But what’s really unique about this, and we’re going to look at a new plastic layer from Forigo on its own too, is say you want to make raised beds, and fertilizer, and drip by yourself, and you don’t want to lay the plastic, the whole plastic layer removes with two pins. So you can make this thing shorter or smaller by adapting it. And there’s nothing else that exists like this anywhere in the world, so it’s amazing. There’s seven of them being used in New England right now and three of them are on organic farms at the moment.
Andy Chamberlin: And that’s one PTO and two remotes?
Trevor Hardy: One PTO and actually one set of remotes. All this hydraulic does is spin the bed-forming roller. So how we change bed, height and depth is there’s half moons here on this hydraulic bed form instead of a bed forming hood, this determined raised bed height, and you slide them in or out to figure out your bed width. So this one set of hydraulics just spins our roller to firm up the bed, so we’re going into it because we’re doing everything in one pass and the fingers are doing their job, and here leveling stuff with the stone barrier, you have to have more than a bed shaper and that’s kind of how it works. But what’s interesting, when this drip tape’s working and all the other components, they have a square tube guide instead of around, which is something that we don’t see here in the United States.
And the reason in Europe they do a lot of square tube is it’s directional. So sometimes in the round tubes, drip tape can fall over and you get your drippers going the wrong orientation. The square tube ensures that it doesn’t. And these are made for either manufacturer of tape, so you can set the brake to go either direction. If people have used Netafim drip tape, they find out that it’s rolled the opposite way on the spool and they go to put it on a rain flow machine and it doesn’t work. But it’s a better drip tape. So to have that work both directions is good.
So the other interesting thing the Italians came up with, if you’re going from field to field or down the row, it actually has a break. So that will hold the plastic so it doesn’t free spool and you don’t end up with that long tail or that trail behind you, which is kind of interesting. But this one’s just not all put together yet. We have to add the other drip fittings, but you can see the other taller cones to make a bigger raised bed.
Speaker 3: Oh, cool.
Trevor Hardy: The fertilizer hopper, Forigo makes the hoppers for MaterMacc. So it adjusts on that potentiometer. So if you’ve seen it on a MaterMacc seeder, it’s the exact same adjustment for tubes in placements. So you got the screw and the position with the belt that goes around, and that’s what distributes the fertilizer. And this is just one option. We have another guy who adopted a system similar to this, right? Two towns up in Goffstown, he has a tractor with a front flail mower, front PTO. So he has a Forigo flail mower on the front and a stone burier with what they call an APV fertilizer and seeder on the back. So he does that for forage and management for his animals, mows down the other stuff, seeds a new cover crop right into the path all in one pass.
Andy Chamberlin: Wow.
Trevor Hardy: So this is just one of many new tools.
Andy Chamberlin: Very cool.
Trevor Hardy: We’re waiting on a lot of different things to arrive on containers. You beat the container by a week.
Andy Chamberlin: I can see something like this just being unbelievable for, I don’t know, Harlow farmer, a bigger organic farmer.
Trevor Hardy: So speaking of Harlow, if you go over there, Corey just got a new dual gold from us, a Checchi & Magli 4-row transplanter for all of his close stuff that he put custom on a dual gold, dual row. So he’s got 12-inch spacing between the rows with four guys and he says compared to what they were using before on a hole and a water wheel, it’s literally half the time to get the field planted. I mean, they’re ahead on lots of things, but the trouble with all the specialty equipment is, and the reason a lot of it’s not stocked, is you need to plan six months or a year ahead because they build it to your application. And everybody does something a little different, that’s why it’s hard for me to bring in lots of different things. We got to think about it and make sure we get the components for your scenario.
I can make this multi-machine four different ways and I had to kind of read through to figure out what’s going to work for New England soils. But that teeth angle on the tiller is really unique. So that’s what, lets say NRCS give this a stir value of 15 for their soil disturbance because it’s C-shaped not an L-shape, like a rototiller. So when it’s tilling, it doesn’t make a flat pan compaction layer, it makes a wave. So when you’re talking total soil disturbance, you’re not increasing that compaction layer in your soil. And being a reverse tiller, the way the teeth cut, they actually sharpen themselves instead of dull themselves going the other direction. So the first Forigo I ever sold like six or seven years ago, and the first one I bought myself, I went three years before I had to change the teeth. There’s not much more here other than toys. Now, toy factor, right?
Andy Chamberlin: Just as important.
Trevor Hardy: So we won’t talk about this. This doesn’t have to make your video, you like this stuff. So how the farmers were innovative in the ’50s, right?
Andy Chamberlin: Yeah.
Trevor Hardy: So here’s the 8N that needed more horsepower. So this one has the flathead V8 with the Sherman and the Howard gear reduction. So that makes the four speed, a 24 speed with all sorts of different gears. So that’s got the V8 in it. The other one back there is fully restored, it has the flathead six that were both done by the funk aircraft conversions to add horsepower to the 8Ns. So the fact that I have a funk six and a funk eight is very rare and it shows both things on the six cylinder they raised the hood, on the eight cylinder, they widened it because the V8 flathead has two water pumps, so the radiator was wider. And this was a common practice back then to try to get more horsepower out of things. Then I got another little rare one of like 24 gold demonstrator tractors that’s all original back there. That’s part of our Ford collection.
Speaker 3: Do you take those out on parades?
Trevor Hardy: I use them all. This one still cultivates, the other flathead uses that. The gold one’s kind of the parade tractor. That’s the more rare one. But like even using this Dexta, that thing’s from ’54, you got to have them run. That was a sweet little one, little three cylinder Perkins Diesel. If that runs, then all the big ones work too. This is my next restoration, this 8210. But the picking part that goes on the REVO, the track.
Andy Chamberlin: Oh yeah.
Trevor Hardy: So all this stuff folds out. That’s how they put a lot of it together. This is the picking arm, so this lowers into the bins.
Andy Chamberlin: Oh yeah.
Trevor Hardy: And this spins it off, the bin rotates. There’s different belts the guys put the apples into because these are out on the ground. So the top guys get the inner belts, the other guys get the small belts, and that just brings the apples up and down. But the fact that the whole thing comes off with a set of forks for a forklift in less than 20 minutes, I mean they’re really ahead of us thinking about ag technology, that’s some of-
Andy Chamberlin: How many folks are using these in the area? Like this kind of-
Trevor Hardy: Platforms in New England?
Andy Chamberlin: Well, yeah. With this kind of [inaudible].
Trevor Hardy: Maybe be three growers. And in New York it’s a lot more popular, but when you look at the economy of apples grown in New England, all of New England is less than half of New York State. And in your state, just like in Maine, either the surrounding orchards get bought up by the other orchard or they go away. Look at Sentinel Pine, look at what was the other one next to Bill’s Douglas Orchards. They bought Douglas and some of the other ones. And then Casey over there in Putney is plowing trees out as fast as he can. So unless you own the distribution rights and the channels where the people are, it’s a harder market to be in. So let’s look at some other stuff and then we can go see some outside technology.
Andy Chamberlin: It keeps you busy, like even just putting one of those things together and figuring it out so you can actually council other people. You got to take your time.
Trevor Hardy: Yeah, there’s no off time for me anymore. There used to be off time, but-
Andy Chamberlin: Are you sleeping or not?
Trevor Hardy: Yeah, not much. Well, just this week I’ve been to New York State twice and got almost 2,000 miles under my belt.
Andy Chamberlin: Amazing.
Trevor Hardy: But this is an odd week. I had two, the owner of Valente, which is the cement post company, they were out visiting us and another distribution partner in Canada. So we gave them a tour of Wayne County, New York, the highest apple-dense planting in the whole country. So we saw a few big growers out there. So some other stuff, that’s something of interest, but it’s not no-till and soil health. That’s the new early and late season corn machine. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this early and late season. So guys that do plasticulture corn early clear instead of row cover. There’s still a debate. So years like this where April’s been a lot cloudier, we haven’t had the sun, the clear corn is actually superseding the row cover corn because we haven’t had the sunlight to penetrate more of the heat through the row cover to get the germination where the plastic is acting.
Speaker 3: So is this hooped and then row cover?
Trevor Hardy: Or flat field row cover.
Speaker 3: Oh, really? Yeah.
Trevor Hardy: Lots of guys do 50 by 1,000, 52 by 1,000. Those size row covers. I sell three overseas containers a year just in the Northeast for that for corn. Then we also sell two trailer loads a year, a clear biodegradable plastic for sweet corn.
Speaker 3: So what are you doing? You’re just getting a couple weeks of germination headstart?
Trevor Hardy: The first person to have corn ready for the 4th of July gets $30 to $32 a bushel.
Speaker 3: How long is the row cover generally?
Trevor Hardy: They’ll let it go till it’s six, seven inches and they’ll take it off. So this machine can be PTO or pull type. This is put together through one of our manufacturers, JM Shirk. He takes two refurbished row units from Pequea, puts it on his own frame, does fertilizer and herbicide all in one pass. So it can be three-point hitch if you have enough tractor to pick it up or pull type. And then it plants, does that, then you add the removable plastic layer on the back to do two rows, and it incorporates herbicides. So you got three nozzles before the plastic gets laid in the back after the covering disks, you have two nozzles here. So you can do everything in one pass.
Then later in the season when you don’t need plastic, it’s just two pins and the plastic piece in a hose for the herbicide come off, there’s another bar which I have inside that goes on the back of these arms as a loop, so you can get a five-bar herbicide strip in one pass. So when people are looking for closer successional plantings of different things and moving around to get everything done in one pass, as people are trying to optimize labor right now, it’s a big efficiency saver. And you can tell with the bioplastic, see the spikes on the bottom roller?
Speaker 3: Yep.
Trevor Hardy: That’s punching the vent holes in the plastic. So I sold three of these this year. This is the fourth one. We had bought four and you always get an extra because somebody wants it and I think this one’s going to Maine next week. My problem is I can never have enough of all the specialty equipment.
Speaker 3: Right. These don’t get set up really differently like that one.
Trevor Hardy: No, these are kind of set up, but what’s unique is when they redo the corn planters, they do the precision meters, disks, and all that other stuff. So everything’s run with the advanced hopper. So they’ve got all their brushes that are adjustable from the precision planters. You can get all your different fingers and stuff, so it’s a fully refurbished unit that’s brand new. All new components, new hoppers, new seed meters, new fingers, new chain. They convert the units to be upper ground drive, off the wheels so you can change your settings. So they even take the row units and they add the Case IH close wheels for reduced compaction. They haven’t done much on the closing wheels. And then it’s got the front disk for the openers with ground shoot fertilizer.
Speaker 3: So the refurbished piece is really just the [inaudible]?
Trevor Hardy: It’s all brand new. When Pequea [inaudible].
Andy Chamberlin: If everything’s brand new, what makes it refurbished?
Trevor Hardy: Well they, there’s so many John Deere corn planters out there from the Midwest that are like 14, 16, 18 row units. When they’re used, there’s nothing wrong because for those big farmers, every three or four years they rent those things and they sell them. Pequea buys them and they chop them up.
Speaker 3: So the frame is-
Trevor Hardy: The frame is all that’s reused.
Speaker 3: I see.
Trevor Hardy: It’s just the frame. Everything else in the components is new. It’s new gauge wheels, new knives, new everything, new seed metering boxes. They added the down pressure springs to the row units that we do for anything no-till. I mean, everything’s brand new.
Speaker 3: Except the tires.
Trevor Hardy: That’s that.
Andy Chamberlin: And the steel’s a few years old.
Trevor Hardy: Amish steel is… They always put used tires on everything even if you ask for new.
Andy Chamberlin: Better traction too for that driver.
Speaker 3: That’s an amazing story right there though.
Andy Chamberlin: Yep.
Trevor Hardy: Now, this whole unit, when you want to talk about something or grower to buy this, is just a hair over $10,000 to buy a two-row Monosem or MaterMacc vacuum planner right now, you’re talking like almost $20,000.
Andy Chamberlin: Wow.
Trevor Hardy: So you can buy those precision metering disks, get into that stuff, have a planter that’ll do something earlier. I got a guy doing this with his sunflower maze. So he puts the sunflowers around with plastic, on black plastic, so he doesn’t have to weed them. And the sunflowers grow tall.
Andy Chamberlin: Nice.
Trevor Hardy: A lot of people will use it with pumpkins too. So they’ll do bush type, not big giant pumpkins have to vein out. They’ll just do one row unit and go through plastic.
Speaker 3: I mean, just as a two-row large seed planter. I mean, even if you don’t do plasticulture, right?
Trevor Hardy: You can’t go wrong with it.
Andy Chamberlin: That’s amazing. I mean, seriously.
Speaker 3: I mean it’s a great reuse story, really.
Trevor Hardy: Yeah, we’ve sold quite a few of them and they last and all the parts are available.
Andy Chamberlin: Are there other, I don’t know, other things like that that could be refurbished from the Midwest?
Trevor Hardy: Some things. Planters is something easy because it’s row units on a square toolbar.
Andy Chamberlin: Yeah, right.
Trevor Hardy: Other cultivation tillage equipment, their scale’s different than ours. Different frames, different sizes. But that’s that. We can look at transplanters, plastic lifter winders, we got zone builders, we got smaller Forigos. We want to look at the Forigo plastic layer. This is something that’s different that nobody’s seen. This is a first one of these I’ve brought in. So when everybody’s thinking plastic layer, you think of basically two brands, you either got a Rain-Flo, or a Nolt’s, which is actually a JM Shirk. So you got the 2500, 2600 from Rain-Flo or the good old RB 448. And people like the difference between the two. The Rain-Flo’s a bigger bulkier machine, but it’s too wide. The RB 448 is smaller because it has more compact row units, but has less height choices.
The Forigo, this is much like the multi-machine, we can incorporate an electric fertilizer hopper. We have a bed shaping and raised bed forming hood with drip tape. Then the poly layer, which is this attachment here, just like the other one, attaches with two pins. So if you want to make a raised bed to direct seed something in that you’re not using plastic on, but bury the drip tape like some June-bearing strawberries on a raised bed or something like that, or three wide on lettuce, you can use this to make it and just unpin the plastic layer, so you can add or subtract that when you want. But the key features about this machine is its adjustment. So here on the back you’ve got major adjustment in raised bed width. You’ve got holes from here to here to pick it.
So you’ve got bed width, you’ve got a simple top link for bed height, but you can also adjust bed side angle from these bolts here. So if you want a wider sloping or a narrower sloping side of your raised bed, you can choose that. That’s something that doesn’t exist in the market right now at all. And you can add your different drip tapes and put them in different positions based on these plates. So this can go up and down to get our total bed height, we can adjust our width, and that side angle and height spacing, that’s what’s unique.
And what’s really nice about this thing is it’s lighter. So when you look at the major thing on both the Rain-Flo and the Nolt’s, we have mould boards collecting soil to make the raised bed. This, they’re expecting you to go with a Forigo, or stone burier, or a perfecta in front of it. And we’re using disks just to gather enough soil to form our raised bed. Does it work in all soil conditions? Don’t know. It’s the first one in the country, but with the stone burier followed by this, it’s a no-brainer.
Speaker 3: You know It’ll work well together.
Trevor Hardy: Yeah, they already work well together because we’ve seen it in there.
Speaker 3: Right. That’s true.
Trevor Hardy: It just has a hydraulic roller, that’s the difference. But apart, I almost think this gives us some better options when people are really looking for custom bed heights. So this is a bed form that you can attach the plastic roller to the back, layer to the back too. And they come in different widths too. This is a 130 centimeter, they come 150 centimeters. So this is a four-foot layer.
Speaker 3: So this is burying the drip tape slightly. Is that right?
Trevor Hardy: You can adjust your height so that this plate, it’s slotted with holes so you can bury the drip tape or raise it.
Speaker 3: Are many people burying?
Trevor Hardy: They should be.
Speaker 3: I know. We talked about that three years ago.
Trevor Hardy: A lot of people put plastic down wrong, put the drip tape on the top or just barely in half an inch. It should be down at least an inch. Then it doesn’t drift on you, you hit it less with your water wheels and stuff. But when you look at the comparison of this to this, just on moving your mold boards and relying on disks, it’s the same story everybody has when they’re laying plastic. If they tilled three weeks ago, it’s going to lay like crap. If they tilled the day before, it’s going to lay great. So a lot of that has to do with soil characteristics. I don’t see any difference with proper timing of tillage between the two of these.
Speaker 3: And I’m seeing now this is the square drip guide versus the round.
Trevor Hardy: The round drip. Yep. So that way it guarantees when they say stripes up so the emitters don’t clog, that’s the big difference.
Speaker 3: So the stripe towards the rear.
Trevor Hardy: Yeah. So it’s kind of different, but the other big thing too is-
Speaker 3: How big an impact is that, stripe up versus stripe down or twisting-
Trevor Hardy: I get calls from farmers, they say, “Oh, my drip tape’s not working. Or I got an issue in a field with a couple rows.” Then you have them go look at it and usually the basic thing is something that all of us forget to look at and it’s that orientation of drip tape. The main reason is when the water shuts off with the flow path, it can pull particles in. If the drippers are facing up, there’s a very less likelihood of it taking stuff in than when it’s on the bottom. And just taking an end cap off once a month and flushing the line makes a big difference. And it depends on how much you’re fertigating too. But another big difference, which I think is significant on their plastic layer.
Speaker 3: Andy, did you see the geometry difference? So the drip tape guides?
Andy Chamberlin: Oh, no.
Speaker 3: The square here. So the way you put it in, it’s going to lock it in.
Andy Chamberlin: I see that. Yeah.
Speaker 3: Versus the round one.
Andy Chamberlin: Yeah, that is significant.
Trevor Hardy: Compare that to the round.
Andy Chamberlin: Yeah., Right. Okay.
Trevor Hardy: Now, here’s another significant difference when we’re pointing out details. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at a Rain-Flo or an Nolt’s. All of your closing wheels in disks on a Rain-Flo machine are on the same parallelogram, so it has the disk in the wheel. Forigos are independent. See the two different grease fittings? So when you’re going over challenging land, if you want different spring pressures, the wheel is on its own set and the covering disk is on its own set. So when we’re really trying to position stuff and they start everything with a pin and then four bolts as opposed to the homemade T-handle that you have on the rainfall that every grower struggles with to get that bolt tight so this doesn’t twist, we have a physical clamp so it doesn’t move.
So the rigidity when you get these machines set, they’re not going to move when you go over rocky ground, where every grower that has a Rain-Flo or a Nolt’s machine is used to the T-handles that are welded on bolts that break off and then you have to thread them out and they always move because it doesn’t lock the components in place. That’s something where you set it and forget it and it’s nice with these pins. So once you have it set there, it moves.
Another big distinctive feature that the Europeans do that I haven’t seen before is two things. This black bow, every plastic layer we’re used to has a bottom roller, whether it’s a crown roller or a flat roller. You’ll see the difference to those things, that lays the plastic down for the wheel. These guys got smart with this bow and pipe. What’s the purpose of that roller? To guide the plastic on the ground so the wind doesn’t pick it up so it stays in contact with the wheel. They put that in the shape of their arc. So as the plastic’s coming down and stretching, there’s no way it can go in or out because it’s using the steel as a guide so it can never lose contact with the wheel.
Andy Chamberlin: Oh, if it was flat [inaudible].
Trevor Hardy: If it’s a roller like this, right?
Speaker 3: Side to side.
Trevor Hardy: So we’ve got the roller there and we’ve got the wheel. So when that’s going on and this is flat, the plastic can slide in or out. Because that outer edge is curved, it’s always following its way. It’s something that’s so simple, but that’s revolutionary.
Speaker 3: Right. Yeah.
Trevor Hardy: And the other inventive thing is these plastic fins in the front. When everybody’s struggling to get enough dirt on their covering wheels because the plowshare up front has stolen all the dirt, this deflects what’s left out so the disk can grab it. So you can really tailor how much soil you’re throwing on the edge of the bed. But I mean, those are little innovations that we’ve been struggling with for 20 years.
Speaker 3: And they’re all passive.
Trevor Hardy: Yeah.
Andy Chamberlin: Those are game changers.
Speaker 3: Yeah.
Trevor Hardy: But that’s how when people really look at equipment around the world, everybody’s got something different. And I’m not just focusing on Forigo, it’s some of the other Italian companies too. But that’s where Europe’s a little bit ahead of us in the machinery design right now.
Speaker 3: Wow.
Trevor Hardy: That’s the little thing. So that’s a one row zone tiller with a basket. So for somebody that wants that, they can rip and cultivate like a big zone.
Speaker 3: Rip and roll.
Trevor Hardy: Rip and roll in one shot, one shank. So some smaller growers like that for pumpkins or something like that. And that’s, I think it’s like 1,400 bucks.
Andy Chamberlin: Nice piece of steel.
Trevor Hardy: It’s not bad.
Speaker 3: What would you need in terms of tractor for that, do you think?
Trevor Hardy: 30, 35.
Speaker 3: Really? Wow.
Andy Chamberlin: That would be a good thing. I mean, that’s a good thing for a lot of growers our size.
Trevor Hardy: I had eight.
Chris Callahan: I got one.
Speaker 3: There’s a theme here.
Andy Chamberlin: Business is going well.
Trevor Hardy: Well, people are getting smart. With the weather we’ve had changing and stuff, they’re looking for different things. So this is some different equipment. We’ll just sneak away in my overhang here. This is one I’m questioning. You might want to get back here and you can see it. You have to innovate and try new things. This is a vertical carousel transplanter. It’s called a WOLF PRO. So this punches through plastic and has fingers that open up and does it, so it’s faster than a water wheel. The seed’s not set up here and then it electronically distributes water after the fact on top of the plant. There’s a couple guys back in the hemp boom. They were sold this, that this machine’s going to be the best thing since sliced bread because it can do 4,000 transplants an hour compared to 2,500 per row unit on the water wheel.
Okay. For the average vegetable farmer, I’m not sure yet. We’ve had them, I’ve got two in the field. Some people like them, some don’t. It’s an electric water pump, there’s a lot more mechanics to it compared to a simple water wheel. Is it faster? Yes. But my characteristic, why I’m not sold on this one piece that we see there, but we’ve got it, depends on what transplant you’re putting in because there’s a difference between your hand setting the plant native in the soil compared to a machine finger opening. A row planter with a shoe is different. This letting it go perfectly in the ground and then having two little packing wheels in the back on top of plastic. What I’m worried about is if they don’t have enough bed prep, it creates a depression and then rain that channels the water on top of the plastic to the transplant, which cannot be a good thing. So this is a good new tool, but it’s not for every grower. This is for a specific application.
Speaker 3: Do you still have people sitting on this feeding that though, right?
Trevor Hardy: Yeah, you got one guy sitting the seeds up there, just bolts here, and the carousel goes vertically around we set pins in placement, but because he’s feeding the carousel, the tractor can go a little bit faster, you can add more cups for that spacing based on gearing. So they can put plants in faster that way than taking the time to set it in the ground.
Andy Chamberlin: Because that’s less distance for their-
Speaker 3: That’s a big difference.
Trevor Hardy: Less distance and less time.
Speaker 3: And accuracy. Right.
Trevor Hardy: You’re not wiggling around, you’re relying on the machine to do the accuracy, but a lot of that accuracy isn’t determined by the machine. It’s all about how well we lay plastic. If you have a one soil type and it’s really kind of loamy, sandy and you can make a really nice bed, cool. There’s not lots of people like that that don’t have rocks in New England.
Andy Chamberlin: Oh, that’s true. Ergonomically, it might be better too, right? I mean, because you’re not bending down and-
Trevor Hardy: Yeah. Oh, ergonomically it’s awesome.
Andy Chamberlin: Yeah.
Trevor Hardy: But you know, you got to be willing to try new technology. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Andy Chamberlin: Sure.
Trevor Hardy: But that’s why some of these things are here.
Andy Chamberlin: What’s the ballpark price on one of these?
Trevor Hardy: That’s about 10, compared to a high end water wheel where you’re about with all the wheels and attachments, maybe five and a half, six.
Andy Chamberlin: Right.
Trevor Hardy: So this is one row carousel, we can add two row or three row. This is common with their carousel planters and finger planters, but it’s not a dual. So one guy’s feeding one row unit, it’s got spacings as close as six inches to as wide as 42 inches. But what’s nice is these machines are perfectly balanced.
Speaker 3: That is nice.
Andy Chamberlin: Yeah, look at that. Wow.
Trevor Hardy: And what what’s really nice is Checchi & Magli has two different drive systems. They have the TRIUM, which is an axle drive system like a corn planter, where all the row units have to file on an axle with a hex drive or the UNITRIUM, where each row unit is independently driven by a tire. We sell mostly UNITRIUMs because that gives the grower greater flexibility to move things in or out, add units, reduce row units, they’re not dealing with axles and chains, and they center mark every row unit. So as you’re moving around, there’s another row unit that’s shipped to add to this to make a two row, three row, four row, you can position things.
Andy Chamberlin: So wait, you’re saying this could be a two row, so with two people?
Trevor Hardy: Yep. Two row, two people. The other one, what they have called a Dual Gold is one person two rows, and the row units can’t be farther apart than 15 inches. So that’s sitting at Harlow’s and a couple other folks. And there’s Baby Compact. There’s so many different transplanters, but that’s where you got to find and translate what works for your system. Regular water wheels, pull-type water wheels, no type water wheels, combo lifter winder. So this is just a hair over five grand. A little bit better than the crop care version because one, it’s more compact. And two, the lifter shoes on the back have a lot more lift to them. So if it’s a long season crop and you had bad weed pressure, that can lift everything up.
And they’re on a hydraulic reset where you can set the reset pressure instead of a spring trip, so it can work really well. So one guy sits on the back, if he’s good at video games, he runs those two winders, they wind everything up and they collapse compared to just a shear bolt row unit.
Speaker 3: Not for me.
Trevor Hardy: But when people are looking at the most dreaded job at the end of the year, which is picking up plastic.
Speaker 3: Yeah.
Trevor Hardy: That’s the thing. But the simple stuff, the little stuff that we spend a lot of time with, this is one that you want to look at. So that back plastic winder, which has the black core on it, and we’ll go around this side and you can get a picture of it. There’s two versions. We have collapsible core or not. So you want to get a picture of that in the middle there, you’re going to walk over all that junk. And the reason is that core, that black center and that end plate come off. Yep. And you can slide one of these on. So this is a galvanized spool.
So the other biggest thing that all farms deal with now, whether they’re fruit or vegetable, is hose management. One thing I want to show you in my shed, all of my irrigation picked up, I’ve used 57 of these. We shrink wrap everything up, hydraulically wind it, put it around for storage, write on it with a magic marker, what field and what location it was. So some of our biggest storage challenges, every farm you go to, there’s bins, there’s piles, there’s tubing everywhere. What field did it go to? How do we set it back out? Agriculture, as we’re expanding to deal with the climate more, it’s all about time and efficiencies and management with our tools. Hose lay flat, drip tubing, that’s all stuff that we have to learn how to efficiently manage. That winder for 1,200 bucks and these reusable spools for 45 a piece. That’s a system. It’s a no-brainer.
Speaker 3: Well, yeah. And just reuse of material too.
Chris Callahan: Oh yeah.
Speaker 3: Because if it’s not well managed after that season.
Trevor Hardy: Yeah, you’re buying lay flat every year, and year, and year over again, and all that stuff. The fact that you can hydraulically wind it up, end over end, wrap it and put something away, and then it’s labeled for next year. So you don’t even need the machine to put it out. You do a saw horse or a broomstick and wind it out.
Speaker 3: Are you seeing or hearing much in terms of recyclability or post-consumer plastic use instead of using virgin plastic?
Trevor Hardy: So let’s talk about that inside when we’re out of the wind. So we don’t need to look at water wheels or any of that stuff, hose reels. Everybody’s seen those.
Andy Chamberlin: Cool. I mean, they’re seeing some things today that really would be good on a lot of farms.
Trevor Hardy: Well, the only thing I’ll say with some of the Kifco reels is like when you have a small diversified farm, this small water wheel that can do an acre in conjunction with stuff with drip, because it has this little solar panel and it’s electrically driven for its retrieval, it doesn’t use water pressure. So when you have a small well system or a water pump, you can run an overhead gun and some drip at the same time. And this just has a battery and a little solar panel, it winds itself in. There’s two versions of this. This is the smallest, this is the 1010, and the 140 is the next one. Those two have electric drive units. This has been the most popular thing in the last four years because it allows the farmer to be more diversified, not have to buy a bigger pump, that you can even run off a garden hose with the smallest nozzle.
Andy Chamberlin: So wait, you’re just running this thing around at different places?
Trevor Hardy: Yeah. You park that there, you pull the hose out, there’s 300 feet of hose, then you come over here, it won’t move because it’s retracted. You turn the dial faster or slower. But because the thing’s off, if I push little safety in here, you can see it move. Yeah, you get the cam lock in there, but you can feed that with a garden hose and wind it in what you want and that’ll draw it in. I don’t think they hooked the battery up yet when they built it. So for the small farmer, this gets you an acre at a whack.
Let’s look at containers. You mentioned plastic recycling, so perspective, New England, between what’s sold through me and what’s not sold through me, we may be talking 20 tractor trailer loads in all of New England. In California, 20 tractor trailer loads is less than one county. So for them it’s a lot easier to have big ag plastic recycling programs because the volume’s there and it’s continuous throughout the year. I don’t think we’ll ever see it on the East Coast.
Speaker 3: There is a pilot program in Maine you’re probably aware of.
Trevor Hardy: Yep.
Speaker 3: For sheet plastic recycling. But I’m thinking more in terms of, is Toro talking about this as a sustainability initiative?
Trevor Hardy: Toro and Netafim have programs. Rivulis is taking a unique approach right now. They’re in the discovery phase of giving a credit towards irrigation products for a trade of carbon credits, because they’re a publicly traded company that also owns an airline. So they’re trying to be carbon-neutral. And the only way they’re doing that and trying to benefit the farmers is they’re exploring a program right now to say, “Hey, you buy T-tape, which we sell too and other stuff, you get a credit per number of rolls if we get your carbon credits back as a trade.” So they’re looking at a value for that.
Speaker 3: That’s interesting.
Trevor Hardy: That’s going to launch next year. So that that’s an opportunity. But the other guys, as far as plastic recycling, the grower, all of this is HDPE 2 recyclable tape. Our recycle centers don’t like taking it because it has dirt on it. If we use that hydraulic winder with a wiper and wipe the dirt off, you can recycle it.
Speaker 3: And so does that wiper exist or-
Trevor Hardy: Yeah, that hydraulic winder’s there. When you’re picking it up, there’s a little catch can you have to make like a-
Speaker 3: It’s an aftermarket thing.
Trevor Hardy: Yeah, you have to make an apparatus. Yeah.
Speaker 3: [inaudible] An aftermarket thing.
Trevor Hardy: And you can recycle it, but-
Speaker 3: That sounds pretty straightforward.
Trevor Hardy: I’ve had people now recycle drip tape, plastic with the bio, that’s that. Everybody’s like, “Oh, when’s bio going to be organic?” I just spoke with Dr. Carol Miles and Lisa Wasko there at Colorado and Oregon State. We did their, were you on that call? I think Vern was on that call.
Speaker 3: Oh, about… Yes.
Trevor Hardy: About the biodegradable plastics and stuff.
Speaker 3: Yes. Yeah.
Trevor Hardy: I was one of the two grower panelists. And it’s not that the material doesn’t meet organic standards, it’s the yeast. Because the commercial yeast that they use to generate the enzymes to get the polymer material to make it isn’t a natural yeast.
Andy Chamberlin: I see. It’s probably bio-engineered or something, right? Or who knows?
Trevor Hardy: Something like that. I mean, it’s an industrial yeast. Big deal.
Andy Chamberlin: Wow.
Trevor Hardy: So the other thing is the US organic standard is written for 100% bio-based. That will never exist because you need carbon black to make the plastic black, but that’s a dye. So right now every bio company out there is between 18% to 24%. The current rule they’re looking at revising to make it allowable is 40%. So there’s still about five years of innovation before we even get close if they move past the yeast as a process thing, because we all know many organic growers that have given up certification just to use the bioplastic.
Chris Callahan: Oh yeah, yeah.
Trevor Hardy: Hundreds just to do that. Or there’s ones that cheat just because they know it’s better for the environment. And I think everybody’s got that plastics mind, but we’re getting closer with tools and educating in that. And that one in Maine with sheet plastic isn’t the first. In what? 2015, ’16, there was the one in Portsmouth, Poly Recovery that was buying lots of ag plastics and stuff and going through the kilns, the part of heating it, getting non-parent organic materials off of that, then pelletizing it and chipping it to reuse it. It’s that process. If it takes more energy to transform than what new stuff is, nobody’s going to do it. But what a lot of people are doing, like streamline from Netafim, in California, all of that product is made with over 40% recycled resin. They can’t do it all new because of the flow path design, so companies are approaching sustainability a different way.
Speaker 3: Yeah. That’s what I was trying to get at, is anybody starting to use some percentage of-
Trevor Hardy: So all the Streamline X from Netafim, and that’s even on their website, Streamline X, Streamline Plus, that’s a certain percentage of recycled material. And they can do that because all of their drip tape isn’t the flow path. It’s all done with discrete emitters that are molded into the plastic, so it’s not a channel. Other people have done that, but we got to look at automation and that stuff too.
Andy Chamberlin: Is that drip tape more pricey? You don’t know. Compared to the-
Trevor Hardy: 10 bucks a roll, but it’s a distinct difference. You wouldn’t find Netafim for a four inch or six-inch spacing with all those discrete emitters. So yeah, everybody’s hell-bent on containers.
Andy Chamberlin: Yep. Those are nice.
Trevor Hardy: The biggest thing that nobody gets from a lean perspective, and me being a lean process improvement engineer, and farmer, and all this stuff is standard footprint. And the two things I hate in our business, not hate, things that I like is standardization. And I know a lot of smaller growers, they’re loading up from the field into their trucks like lids for production and agriculture that has to wash and put stuff in boxes for resale, lids are a very bad idea. It’s harder to sanitize the container, it’s another thing that when it breaks, you can’t use the container because their design features don’t allow them to nest and stack on top of each other without the lid. And the biggest thing that we care about is having nine different containers, which we have with this yellow and red product line that have the same nesting and stacking features.
Andy Chamberlin: Yeah, they fit together.
Trevor Hardy: They fit together and nest together. So when you’re looking at different things in different shapes, that’s the biggest thing. But there’s two versions of this yellow tray out there, there’s rectangular holes and round holes. Round holes is the Chinese knockoff. What’s the big difference? When they drill the yellow holes, they do it from the bottom of the container out, so all the frass is in there. So when you try to go use that on tomatoes or something like that, that plastic has a sharp edge and it cuts them. You feel the inside of these, all the edges in the mold are chamfered because these are molded.
They’re not shaped and then drilled after. So when you’re looking at the longevity of your crop, plus the more holes in here, if you’re using the high pressure rinse conveyor after to sanitize all your stuff, you put these in upside down because there’s more pressure washer nozzles on the bottom than the top and it’s easier to wash the dirt and the material out of the container. So that’s some of the design features. That’s a whole summer webinar for you on.
Andy Chamberlin: Yeah. Do you sell the gray solid ones too?
Trevor Hardy: Yes. Yep. The gray solid ones. I’ve got all the-
Chris Callahan: Not buck, the harvest. They make that style.
Trevor Hardy: Oh, these. So this is all made by in Canada, the parent company is Ak-West. There’s three other plastic manufacturers that own… Sorry, not manufacturers, just vendor partners that own individual molds of the same footprint. So depending which mold you make, that’s your class purification because a mold to make one of those is like $800,000. And that’s why one person owns the mold. So the mold for the vented versus the mold for the solid. Yeah, it’s the same footprint, but a different guy owns it. And that person leases it to the plastic processing plant and picks their price. That’s the interesting thing with plastic. So when you get the solids or the vented, it’s good, but I’m waiting on a whole trailer load of containers, so we’re short on those right now. But you can get bins and all that other stuff too. People have seen it.
Let’s go look at some bigger stuff. Two things I think you’d like too is larger containers. So where a lot of people are getting 20 bushel bins, we have the bin carrying trays, traveling equipment. So we work with my partner in New York, Lagas, who makes the machines that slide under six or seven bins and hydraulically pick them up and move them in and out through the field with the butternut squash or whatever you’re doing, whatever you’re moving, onions. It’s all about that efficiency with transportation. We had to go look at pictures of that stuff wounded up some no-till corn and some other things. Anything else and we got to do the whole tempest thing.
So the bigger thing is we’re taking our standard filter system versus sand filters and other things that we’re doing. We’ve got automated valves which we’re going to see out in the field. So we can set this to automatically back flush on one of two triggers, time or differential pressure, so you can set it up to be automatic. And most of the time you’d want that to happen when you have an automatic pump. If you’ve got a gas pump that’s running for four or six hours, you’re going to run it yourself anyway because you have to go there to turn it on or shut it off. Electric pumps, full system automation. That’s where this matters. But the fact that we’re making this ourselves versus buying one from the industry, an automatic three-inch twin, a back flush with the controller is less than five grand. To buy a sand filter that’ll auto back flush with the same flow through this like 250 gallons a minute, auto backflush is like $15,000.
Andy Chamberlin: The last thing Trevor talks about is an introduction to a new system of automation from Toro called Tempus Ag. A way to monitor or control your farm remotely with pressure sensors, and irrigation, and temperature. I’ll let him do the explaining, but it is really neat and you should check it out if you want to make your farm a bit more automated.
Trevor Hardy: Well, it’s also quite an honor and a cool thing that Toro chose us in New England, because of our small farm diversification and what we’re using, as the pilot and the template. And part of that has to do with my relationship with them, but they know that if it works for a small ag and the diversity here, it’s going to work everywhere in the world. That’s a moisture temperature sensor right there. So this is what they call an MS. There’s an MS and an MS4. So this is a single sensor. The MS sensor, this can take up to 230 different kinds of sensors right now as part of the automation. We are using, because we like granular matrix sensors for soil moisture, we’re using watermarks voltage adapter, and this can allow us to add a watermark soil moisture sensor or a temperature sensor and join it to the Tempus network. It can accept right now almost 30 different kinds of soil moisture sensors.
Chris Callahan: And you just tell it what’s connected or is it automatic?
Trevor Hardy: So how it works, everything runs off a nine volt battery. How you program it is you Bluetooth it through your phone. So the first thing you do, put the battery in, it’ll ask you for Bluetooth, you type in the number that’s on the bottom of this, then it’ll show up saying, “Hey, I’m adding a sensor.” On your phone, it will show you and it tells you when you tell it which sensor you want, what color wire matches with what, so it’s foolproof. Then it does a test unit. And then once you get the sensor adapted, it geolocates. So wherever you put it in the field, it shows that location to tag it to it. And then it tells you if it’s in range of a base station if you want to link it, or you can store it independently in the machine and go back and check it. You can pick it up with your phone, you don’t have to tie it to a base station and make it report.
So some people can use these just as Bluetooth valve operators or something like that. So this is not what normal people would see, but this is a test platform because I’m on the thing. So if I go to my location, which is right here that we have running, it’s called Brookdale Big Hill. This is the components that are connected to it right now. I click canopy and this shows me where I’m at, so I can select my farm and it’ll zoom in and I’ll hit map once it loads all the units. Might not even have to wait for that. It shows me on the satellite image over Google Earth where everything is. So here’s my base station next to my pond, here’s my master valve or main valve that controls all the timing, I have irrigation valves going up the hill. Up here, I have a multi-sensor which has soil moisture and temperature. I have a flow meter down here, and I have a pressure switch in this one and a pressure transducer, which gives us live pressure here.
This is just some of the basic setups. So right now, if I want to see how I’m irrigating, I go to a cluster. This is my program in essence, and this is going to load my base station. So today I’m not watering, tomorrow if I had the pump plugged in, I’d be watering main valve one for four hours, main valve two for four hours, main valve three for four hours. Here’s your color code. It can tell you water, you can have it trigger a separate fertilizer operation, which will show that visually with a barcode under there. It shows you when you’re operating pressure, it can also allow you to trigger those valves to have a high pressure, low pressure, or once we know the standard flow rate for that greater than 10% difference with the flow meter, which can alert you if you have a leak.
So you can tailor it to do anything you want, you can change all your time schedules when you go back to the individual modules and show those containers, controllers. Like if I go to my main valve, which ties into your flow meter, I can say, boom, here’s this. And I can look at my history in graph, but it can show it to you in gallons and timeframe. Let’s go to back when we were running something. But when you export it, you can play with it and it shows you the diagrams of what you’re running and where it had run. And you can look at that with pressure too, so like if I go to my pressure transducer, it was actually interesting because when we were looking at the historical data, we’ve been messing with this because the pressure transducer is so sensitive. It was picking up freeze and thaw cycles. That’s where I reset it, that’s why the data went away. So see, it measures in 10th of a PSI.
So that’s just the expansion and contraction of the metal and the sensor in the sun. So we had the threshold set so fine, we were playing with it in the end of March when I had the fellows here from Toro. So that’s why the data is all funky now because I reset my standards, I have to go back, but that’s part of our test platform that we can change this. The other platform doesn’t so it can get that precise if you don’t know what’s going on. That’s how some of it works, but we can go and look at doing that. And the base station can either be cellular or wifi. So when you look at it set up, it’s pretty simple. And you can put these valves just with the zip tie. They’re all waterproof. So you can put them in a greenhouse, do multiple temperature alerts. You can have over 40 of them hooked up to one, so it’s all potted. So nothing can go into it.
Chris Callahan: So what’s the thermal strip inside?
Trevor Hardy: You can’t even open it. It’s all potted. No, so this one, all the leads are coming out because this is only an MS, which is a single one, an MS4 is going to have four banks of wires. So they all come pre-made per thing. So like when I have a CT6, there’s six banks in here of wires for things. So this whole thing is potted in a liquid, so you can’t get any contamination.
Chris Callahan: Very cool.
Trevor Hardy: Which is part of their thing. And they did so many atmospheric tests and stuff with this stuff. But when you get to it, the only large functional change with this compared to how anybody else is used to automating stuff is you have to change to a 12 volt latching solenoid instead of a 24 volt AC because these are positional. So they have a table and we have them here of the 16 different solenoid valves that activate the stuff most commonly. So you just change the solenoid.
Chris Callahan: You can just change it. You don’t need to change the valve. You can just change the-
Trevor Hardy: You change the solenoid. It’s very simple. So I have it for every make and model.
Chris Callahan: That’s great.
Andy Chamberlin: This podcast is supported by the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association and the Ag Engineering Program of the University of Vermont Extension. If you want to see photos, videos, or any relevant notes from this episode or others, check out the website, thefarmersshare.com, T-H-E-F-A-R-M-E-R-S-S-H-A-R-E.com. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us on Instagram so you don’t miss any content. Thanks for listening.