Case Study:
Van Belle Nursery

AIS’ BigTop is currently in operation at one of Canada’s largest nursery operations: Van Belle Nurseries. Van Belle grows more than 400 varieties of plants on 100 acres located in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

The Challenge

During the nursey’s high season, Van Belle needed twelve people moving pots each day. This was required to propagate and grow the plants to their optimal size. Until maturity, plants have to be moved and spaced accordingly within a nursery to allow for maximum growth.

The challenge was two-fold. Van Belle Nursery found that in their 100-acre operation, the labor-intensive tasks took a noticeable toll on workers. Not only did speed and accuracy drop but the workers felt degraded and unfulfilled.

Compounding the toll these tasks took on workers was the labor shortage. Workers for these repetitive and often dangerous tasks were extremely difficult to find. Van Belle found they were spending a substantial amount of time searching for workers to no avail.

The Solution

The team at AIS developed and deployed BigTop, the company’s flagship autonomous mobile robot. It is designed to optimally move and space plants in a nursery. BigTop has the ability to move 200 pots an hour while a worker can move 150.  With an eight-plus hour run time and an interchangeable battery, automation allowed Van Belle Nursery to increase productivity and performance.

Not only did productivity and performance increase, but employee job satisfaction rose significantly. Workers at Van Belle are more fulfilled as they have the freedom to focus on more diverse and challenging tasks. Van Belle is committed to a strong culture that has been cultivated through core values.  The introduction of BigTop into the work environment fully supports the nursery’s values of respecting people and finding a better way.