The crop clamping system Qlipr clearly adds value to the cultivation of tomatoes. That is the conclusion of the pilot conducted in the past year by Hagdorn Tomaten in Hochdorn/Enz. An important plus point for the owner, Heiko Hagdorn, is how sustainable working it is.
Germany: Savings in labour, light and sustainability with special crop clamps
There is more light in the greenhouse, and Hagdorn saved 10% on labour on average in the first year alone. In the future it is likely that greater labour savings will be realised.
The Qlipr crop hooks and clamps are made of stainless steel. They are expected to last for at least ten years. Because the harvested crop does not contain any plastic or twine, the leaves can be shredded immediately after cultivation and composted into fertiliser. This leads to sustainability savings. This was the most important reason for Heiko Hagdorn to switch to the Qlipr crop clamping system. Hagdorn runs a tomato company covering 4 hectares in Baden-Württemberg together with his wife Karin, where vine, cocktail and snack tomatoes are grown on a high wire. “We want to produce while also caring for our environment and the next generation,” explains Heiko. “In addition, our customer demands that we lower our CO2 footprint as much as possible. This system helps meet that demand; the leaves do not contain any twine or plastic and can be shredded and composted immediately after cultivation. For free! Previously, we paid 17 Euro cent per plant for waste disposal; that makes a big difference.”
5-15% labour savings
Another important benefit of the Qlipr system is that Hagdorn can combine several tasks. “With the system we can lower the plants, remove the side shoots, move the clips and – if necessary – raise them all in the same operation. Previously, these were separate operations. Being able to combine tasks is an important plus point of the system. With snack and cocktail tomatoes, we go through them once every 7 days, and with the vine tomatoes, once every 10 days. This is less often than with a regular cultivation system.”
Because the plant is not twisted around the twine, all clusters hang on one side. This simplifies harvesting and trimming leaves. “Trimming leaves is definitely faster and easier anyway. There are no plastic clips or twine in the way any longer. This improves the trimming and reduces the risk of botrytis.”
This also produces significant labour savings for the grower. “With the vine tomatoes we use 15% less labour, compared to 2012, throughout the entire cultivation and packaging process. With the snack tomatoes the labour savings is 12%, and with the cocktail tomatoes about 5%. That is a major benefit. Plus the work conditions are improved: all tasks are carried out at the same low height.”
Hagdorn admitted that people had to get used to the system. “The principle of Qlipr is very simple, but unlearning old habits takes some effort. Thanks to the consultancy provided by Cor Pellikaan, all of our employees quickly mastered the system, and now they are very comfortable with the new procedure. Everyone can work with it; this gives you additional flexibility as an employer.”
In summary, the German grower concludes that the Qlipr system is eminently suitable for tomato cultivation. “Qlipr evidently adds value to tomato cultivation, especially of the smaller, lighter varieties. Clipping the large vine tomatoes was quite difficult for our female employees. But 2013 was not a normal year in terms of weather and crop growth. Perhaps next year, if the growth of the plants is different and we have more experience with the procedure, it may be another matter.”
For Hagdorn the Qlipr system is also financially interesting; he expects to earn back the investment made within 3-4 years. “And I didn’t include the labour savings in my calculations. In other words: definitely a cheaper outcome!”