Technological efficiencies star at Manor View Farm
MONKTON, Md. — In 2007, a year before the Great Recession hit full force, Alan Jones, John Clark, and Dennis Hendrix bought out Manor View Farm from the Patterson family, its longtime owners. “We lost 40 percent of our sales,” said Jones, Manor View’s President.
“Yet, we survived the Recession,” he continued, “because we’ve tried to become more efficient ever since.”
Those efficiencies and their accompanying successes to Manor View’s bottom line were on full display as part of the afternoon tour for the Maryland Nursery, Landscape, and Greenhouse Association’s Field Day 2019.
A key component of those efficiencies is water usage. “The wells around here are poor. You dig 600 feet and you get maybe 10 gallons per minute,” explained Jones. “It’s why we rely heavily on pond water.”
It’s also why Manor View has been working with the University of Maryland Extension to research ways to “reduce, remediate and recycle” that water usage as explained at one of the tour stops by Andrew Ristvey, UM Extension agent and his team of graduate-level researchers.
Part of that research effort has been the collection, analysis, and use of data gleaned from an on-site weather station as well as irrigation sensors positioned in the field production, balled and burlaped material in Manor View’s Landscape Distribution Center, and the Propagation Greenhouses.
In the fields, “the whole operation is drip irrigation,” noted Joe Clark, Manager for Manor View’s Field Growing Team and the narrator for the field tour portion of the afternoon. “By keeping the concentration of water at the root mass and pulsing the water, they’ve cut their water usage by over 50 percent,” he continued.
In a more detailed conversation later that afternoon, Jones elaborated on their irrigation systems.
“The theory is when it’s totally wet, you have adequate moisture. When the plant dries out, it needs more moisture,” he said.
To monitor the theory, he continued, “sensors nodes in the field are placed at 6, 12, and 18 inches. The water is run for 2 hours and then turned off for 2 hours.
At that point the moisture level, usually registers at 6 inches.
The next two hours of watering usually registers at 12 inches and so forth.” In short, the research data collected from the irrigation sensors revealed that “most nurseries were overwatering,” said Jones.
“It wasn’t doing any harm, but it wasn’t helping,” he continued. By watering continuously, “you’re flushing out fertilizer, plus wasting money because you’re running your pumps longer.”
In contrast, when you pulse every 2 hours, you use less fertilizer, Jones explained.
“You also get less spraying, less water, and hardier root stock.” The system clearly amounts to a win all around for the nursery.
Jones also clarified how Manor View had saved on its water usage in maintaining its B&B tree stock by switching from traditional overhead sprayers to spray emitter stakes placed in the root ball.
“When you run the overhead sprayer, it goes into the air if you have low humidity,” Jones said. “And, if you have wind, it lands somewhere else.”
With the spray emitter stakes, “the water stays low and stays on the root ball. Because of that we’ve saved over 65 percent on our water usage in the Landscape Distribution Center,” he concluded.
Indeed, Manor View’s embrace of technology research to find solvable efficiencies hasn’t stopped with just their irrigation and water usage issues. During the tour stop at Manor View’s Propagation Greenhouses, Jones discussed how a tour of a Netherlands nursery with the International Plant Propagators Society had inspired him to consider incorporating radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology at Manor View.
“Using a drone, he (the Netherlands nursery owner) was able to inventory 25 acres in less than 4 hours,” said Jones. “Our object is to put a drone in the field and do inventory in 10 minutes.”
Jones further noted that RFID can “tie the activities and the locations in real times,” which, in turn, “expands the capability of tracking plants from cradle to grave.”
In short, their continuing embrace of technology has been yet another success story for Manor View’s owners.
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P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925