“An oddly satisfying activity” is how Chelsea Maier describes the work in the cucumber greenhouse at the National Vegetable Protected Cropping Centre in Western Sydney University. Why is that? Because she is working with the Tom System, enabling her to speed up while reducing the risk of damaging the plants. 

Alternative to plastic clips and manual winding
The Tom System is an innovation of the Spanish company Agrifast and brings an alternative to plastic clips and manual winding. It might remind you of a stapler: with a metal ring, the plant is tied to the cultivation wire. The system was developed almost a decade ago, and ever since, growers from all over the world have started tying their crops to wires automatically with a small metal ring. The system is used for cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, and combined with biotwine, it offers a way to 100% compostable waste.

oddly

Speeding up
While enabling a worker to clip more than 2000 plants per hour, the Tom System also provides a solution to the lack of labor available in the greenhouse industry.

The team with Western Sydney University has been using the Tom Tool in their cucumber crop. According to Chelsea, it is a time saver indeed. “We have been able to double our speed for trellising, which has been really important during this past Covid lockdown with lean staff numbers,” Chelse Maier says.

She shows how the system not only enables them to speed up their greenhouse work but brings benefits overall. “Using the system, rather than manual winding, reduces both handling and the risk of damaging plants. It’s a great system for maintenance tasks.”

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Photo of the Tom System in a tomato crop

Education and research
The National Vegetable Protected Cropping Centre is designed to house research, education, and training opportunities in modern protected cropping horticulture. The 1800 m2 glasshouse facility is equipped with high-tech infrastructure, controller systems, and some of the finest protected cropping technologies in the world, enabling them to develop the skills of Australia’s next generation of specialists and professionals. The NVPCC is a collaborative partnership between Western Sydney University, Hort Innovation, industry, and research partners to advance Australia’s horticultural capabilities.