When Sunshine Greenhouses in Provo, Utah was founded in 1989, the focus was on growing houseplants. That changed to growing plants like groundcover and 4-inch perennials that others weren’t willing to grow or were difficult to produce. Over time, they expanded into more traditional crops and their market reach grew.
“It was a way for us to get into the market,” says owner Harry McCoard. “So what we did was start growing the little niche crops. Before long, we became the main grower for our customers.”
As McCoard puts it, Sunshine Greenhouses functions as a manufacturer of plants and the main problem they face is simply producing the plants as fast as possible. All of the steps involved in growing — planting, watering, fertilizing, etc. — can sometimes form a bottleneck that bogs down productivity.
“Being able to produce the quantities we needed as fast as we needed [them] — that’s always what held us back from growing more products or finishing when he needed to,” McCoard says.
That’s where TTA USA’s PackPlanter transplanter, comes in. They purchased the PackPlanter three years ago because they knew and visited nearby growers who had used it successfully. When they committed to buying the PackPlanter, Sunshine provided information to TTA USA about their operation — such as which trays they used and what direction the plants faced — and had success right off the bat.
The end result has been a 20-percent increase in productivity without having to hire extra labor. In turn, the money saved from not hiring more workers has opened up opportunities to expand.
“TTA was a lifesaver for us,” McCoard says. “It’s even better than doing it by hand — it’s more consistent.”
Ron Vander Hengst, the owner of South Central Growers, has a similar story. The Springfield, Tennessee-based operation sells to big-box stores like Walmart and Lowe’s. As a result, they have to fulfill large orders on a regular basis. The PackPlanter is key to maintaining peak efficiency.
“When we were doing everything by hand, it would take an additional six people [to run a line],” Vander Hengst says. “Qualified labor is hard to come by. Seasonal labor is even harder to come by.”
South Central Growers had a TTA USA transplanter 15 years ago when TTA USA debuted its first model. But then they switched to another company’s transplanters for about a decade. In the past three years, however, they’ve returned to TTA USA to purchase two new transplanters. They saw TTA USA’s newest version in action and decided to try it. Vander Hengst cites the improved technology, the planting speed and the PackPlanter’s ability to handle young plants as reasons why that transplanter was their only choice.
“Our production speed went up about 35 percent,” Vander Hengst says. “When you’ve got a machine set up like a TTA transplanter, you know that your product is getting planted correctly. I don’t have to train the machine year after year to do it correctly. I would if I brought in seasonal staff.” — Chris Manning