A Tasmanian engineering innovation in strawberry and other hydroponic food production is set to be adopted by major berry producers in the UK and Europe.
Rod Marshall, Managing Director of Marshall Machinery in Launceston, has returned from meetings in the UK and Europe, in response to expressions of interest from international berry producers. At these meetings, Mr Marshall demonstrated and promoted the unique “COIR-RX” hydroponic substrate processing machine, which has been entirely researched, developed and manufactured by his company in Tasmania.
Worldwide, crops such as strawberries, tomatoes and capsicums are planted within plastic substrate bags containing coir, rock-wool, or other materials, then disposed of at the end of each growing cycle. Until now, the process to separate the plastic from substrate and plant material, then package materials for recycling, has been a massive, mainly manual process for growers, or simply dumped into landfill.
The COIR-RX processing machine replaces this manual process with a mobile platform that travels along the ends of strawberry rows to feed in the materials, separate them, then automatically capture, compress and wrap the plastic for recycling. The machine also ejects the organic material which becomes an effective mulch.
A single COIR-RX machine can process up to 2000 one-metre long substrate bags per hour. This takes less than 5% of the time and half the cost of the current laborious process of removing, transporting, picking through materials, manually sorting and bagging.
The system is also vastly more discriminating while sorting, ensuring a much purer separation result for both plants and plastic.
Mr Marshall said, “After years of research and development, we now have a functional machine that is proving itself in actual field use.”
“Marshall Machinery is now ready to respond to expressions of interest it has received from major berry producers in the UK, who have heard of the productivity and profitability benefits of COIR-RX, which has no competing systems for end-to-end processing in the world.” Mr Marshall said. “I have met with these producers in the UK with a view to exporting our locally manufactured COIR-RX machines.”
As well as responding to specific registrations of interest from UK growers, Mr Marshall attended the European “EIMA” Agriculture Conference and Exposition in Italy, from 7 to 11 November 2018, which is one of the largest events showcasing innovations in agriculture in Europe.
Mr Marshall plans to build on the expressions of interest from UK growers, by educating key stakeholders in the EU agriculture market about COIR-RX, with the vision of building an innovative agriculture machinery exporting operation from Tasmania, while continuing to work with local growers on next-generation specialist solutions.