Nursery Automation

CURRENT MECHANIZATION PRACTICES AMONG GREENHOUSE AND MIXED NURSERY/GREENHOUSE OPERATIONS IN SELECTED GULF SOUTH STATES

From 2003 through 2009, the socioeconomic survey of nursery automation was conducted in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. We surveyed 215 growers, and 127 were used for the purpose of this study (75 mixed operations and 53 greenhouse-only operations). All participating growers were asked a series of questions to determine the types of automation or mechanization employed in the performance of 10 major greenhouse tasks: media preparation, container filling, cutting and seed collection, cutting and seed preparation, sticking cuttings and planting seed, environmental control, harvesting and grading production, fertilizer application, pesticide application, and irrigation application and management.

Coker, Randal Y., Benedict C. Posadas, Scott A. Langlois, Patricia R. Knight, and Christine H. Coker. 2015. Current Mechanization Systems Among Greenhouse and Mixed Nursery/Greenhouse Operations. Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station Bulletin 1208, Mississippi State, Mississippi.

HIRING PREFERENCES OF NURSERIES AND GREENHOUSES

This work describes workers’ socioeconomic characteristics and evaluates the determinants of workers hiring decisions among 215 randomly selected wholesale nurseries and greenhouses located in eight selected southern states in the United States. The participating nurseries and greenhouses employed on average 5.40 permanent workers per horticulture operation or 2.27 permanent workers per acre under cultivation. Participating nurseries and greenhouses hired an average 2.38 part-time workers per horticulture operation or 0.80 part-time workers per acre placed under production. Empirical models were estimated to determine the significant factors affecting hiring decisions by this industry. Hiring decision models covered age groups, racial backgrounds, formal education levels, and gender. Analysis of the decision-making process involving the employment of hired workers among the participating wholesale nurseries and greenhouses provided insights into the hiring decisions in the industry. The hiring decisions by demographic characteristics serve as benchmarks for assessing impacts of regulations affecting the industry in the near future. About 1.9% of all the establishments employed more than 50 permanent and part-time workers and 1.4% employed more than 50 permanent workers.

Posadas, Benedict C., Patricia R. Knight, Christine H. Coker, Randal Y. Coker, and Scott A. Langlois. 2014. Hiring Preferences Of Nurseries And Greenhouses In Southern United States. HortTechnology, 24(1):107-117.

ECONOMIC IMPACT OF MECHANIZATION ON NURSERIES AND GREENHOUSES

Workers in participating wholesale nurseries and greenhouses in eight southern states perform about one-fifth of their main tasks with some form of mechanization. The increase in total workers earnings associated with improved mechanization indicated that nurseries and greenhouses were able to pay their workers higher wages and salaries. The increased levels of mechanization produced neutral effects on employment and raised the value of the marginal productivity of labor, implying that technology adoption by wholesale nurseries and greenhouses did not displace any worker but instead improved total workers earnings.

Posadas, Benedict C. 2012. Economic Impacts of Mechanization or Automation on Horticulture Production Firms Sales, Employment, and Workers’ Earnings, Safety, and Retention. HortTechnology, 22(3): 388-401.

CURRENT MECHANIZATION SYSTEMS AMONG NURSERY-ONLY AND MIXED OPERATIONS

While irrigation management, chemical application, and plant pruning are somewhat automated or mechanized, growers have opportunities to apply new or different technology. For instance, plant transportation throughout the nursery and plant placement in the field utilize little mechanization. Therefore, new or existing technology may be applied. Substrate mixing, container filling, and planting are also areas where  automation or mechanization  might be implemented or modified to help increase production.

Coker, Randal Y., Benedict C. Posadas, Scott A. Langlois, Patricia R. Knight, and Christine H. Coker. 2010. Current Mechanization Systems Among Nurseries and Mixed Operations. Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station Bulletin 1189, Mississippi State, Mississippi.

SOCIOECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS OF WORKERS IN NURSERIES AND GREENHOUSES

Although there were variations from grower to grower, the industry peak season covered the months starting in February and ending in May. During peak months, working hours averaged 9.1 hours a day or 51.5 hours per week. During slack months, workers averaged 7.1 hours a day or 36.1 hours per week. The average wage rate reported by nurseries and greenhouses was $7.89 per hour. Most of the workers had access to rest and lounging areas, sanitation facilities, and drinking water. Nurseries and greenhouses provided their workers limited housing benefits, dental and medical insurance, and retirement benefits.

Posadas, Benedict C., Patricia R. Knight, Christine H. Coker, Randal Y. Coker, and Scott A. Langlois. 2010. Socioeconomic Characteristics of Workers and Working Conditions in Nurseries and Greenhouses in the Northern Gulf of Mexico States.  Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station Bulletin 1182, Mississippi State, Mississippi. 

OPERATIONAL CHARACTERISTICS OF NURSERIES AND GREENHOUSES

When growers made production decisions, one of the most crucial elements in the process was the choice of which plant sizes to grow. These decisions had serious implications on the labor, materials, and supplies that would be required to operate efficient production lines. The five most commonly produced liner products included 2-, 3-, 4-, 6-, and 8-inch pots and liners in 18-and 36-cell trays. The top five potted products most frequently selected by the growers included plants in 1-, 3-, 5-, 7-, and 15-gallon pots. The participating nursery and greenhouse growers in the northern Gulf of Mexico states mostly preferred plants in 10-inch baskets to other basket sizes.

Posadas, Benedict C., Patricia R. Knight, Christine H. Coker, Randal Y. Coker, and Scott A. Langlois. 2010. Operational Characteristics of Nurseries and Greenhouses in the Northern Gulf of Mexico States. Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station Bulletin 1184, Mississippi State, Mississippi.