MEET Roboplanter – helping to brighten up Huddersfield.
It’s the new automated planting machine bought by Kirklees Council to help produce hundreds of thousands of flowers for the area this summer.
And the Italian machine is already proving a big hit with staff at the council’s nurseries in Bradley.
It can transplant 24,000 plants a day, which is a huge step towards the 500,000 needed for the streets and parks of Kirklees.
The introduction of the machine has meant the nursery unit will not be taking on as many seasonal staff in future, but no permanent jobs are affected.
The nursery has six permanent staff and takes on the same number in the summer for seasonal work.
Nursery manager Paul Marshall said: “We have employed seasonal staff for this year but obviously will not need as many next year. It is hoped the machine will have paid for itself in two or three years.
“Each summer we need around half a million plants to put a splash of colour into parks and town centres.
“Some are grown from seed at our nursery and others are bought in as seedlings.
“As part of the growing process. the young plants all need to be transferred from their original tiny pots called plugs into 3-inch pots that allow them to grow to the size required for planting in beds or hanging baskets.
“Before, we had six people transplanting 20,000 plants a day. The machine will do 24,000 plants a day with only two or three permanent staff needed to work alongside it.
“The only manual requirements are feeding in and removing the plant trays which travel through on conveyor belts.”
The robot has three arms, each with three “fingers” that pinch out and hold the delicate plants.
The arms then travel to prepared pots into which the plants are pushed.
It even remembers where it left off if the machine is switched off.
“But we still need our gardening skills,” said Mr Marshall.
“The machine cannot tell you exactly when it is best to transplant – you need a gardener’s expertise for that”.