June 3, 2015 | By: Aimee Nielson
LEXINGTON, Ky., -

Vegetable farming is hard work. Small-scale growers don’t usually have resources to purchase expensive machines that would help with some of the long, laborious hours of producing a marketable crop. University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment engineers will showcase an innovative machine system for market growers at a June 9 field day.

“I was a market grower myself for a number of years,” said John Wilhoit, engineer for the UK Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering. “I know firsthand how challenging it is to run a profitable market growing operation. However, we have found some ways to improve operations and increase labor efficiency at fairly low costs.”

Wilhoit will demonstrate a low-cost vegetable machine platform that uses furrow guidance for several different vegetable crop operations from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. EDT June 9 at the Berries on Bryan Station Farm in Lexington.

Wilhoit and UKAg engineer Larry Swetnam developed the machine to help perform many important functions such as laying drip tape, seeding, transplanting, thinning and cultivating.

“The machine is particularly promising for small-to-intermediate sized market vegetable growers,” Wilhoit said. “It has the potential to eliminate the need for a driver steering, allowing one person to accomplish various tasks that would normally require at least two people. It’s also promising for organic producers because of the precision cultivation it allows.”

While the use of the machine is new, Wilhoit said it’s actually based on an old concept, furrow guidance, inspired by a unique platform farmers used as a tobacco harvesting aid more than 30 years ago.

Participants at the field day will also get to see a demonstration of a planter that seeds directly into plastic-covered beds and an experimental autonomous vehicle for vegetable production.

More information about the furrow-guided machine system is available at http://www.uky.edu/bae/innovations-market-growers.

Berries on Bryan Station is located at 4744 Bryan Station Road, a few miles north of Lexington in Fayette County. In addition to the UK Cooperative Extension Service, field day sponsors also include Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education and the Organic Association of Kentucky.

Contact: 

John Wilhoit, 859-218-4345