A ten-hectare greenhouse easily contains fifty kilometers of heating pipes. Lifting all those tubes off the ground during the crop rotation requires muscles and a lot of hands. It is hard work, but not for FB Engineering's Tube Rail Lift.
For the past two years, the clever invention has been on show at the horticultural trade fair HortiContact in Gorinchem. Richard Frenken of FB Engineering is marketing the product. The company is scaling up. Several growers are already using Wiel Nies' invention.
Richard Frenken and Wiel Nies at HortiContact 2022.
Labor-saving and labor-relieving
More than ever, horticulture is all about hygiene, and labor is scarce. Cleaning the greenhouse properly to perfection requires lifting the heating pipes off the ground. That way, the tubes can be cleaned properly, and the running film can be changed.
The tube rail lift came about after a question from a grower who didn't want his people doing the heavy lifting again. Couldn't it be done mechanically? "Yes," said inventor Wiel.
When lifting, only one man per tube lift is needed. The tube rail lift has an arm at the front, with two rollers on it through which both tubes of the heating loop run. This arm provides the steering direction so that the cart on castors always follows the tube rail very neatly in the longitudinal direction.
Using a lift hook on a winch, which with its 0.5 kW power can lift up to 250 kg, the tube rail is hoisted to the desired height, after which the tubes are hung in an A-hook on a vertical cable or S-hook. Then, the tube rail lift, powered by a low-noise 0.8 kWh petrol generator, drives to the next suspension point, and the operations repeat.
The Tube Rail Lift is available for almost any tube rail size. The machine lifts the tube rails and, not unimportantly, also puts them back in line neatly. In between, growers can clean the greenhouse, even when the days get shorter. By adding an LED floodlight to the tube-rail lift, tube-rail lifting can also be done in the evening or early morning.