New technology coming to Newton Nursery
Our nursery at Newton is a hub for innovation. We’re currently redesigning the nursery to modernise the infrastructure and ensure we can produce trees for our long-term planting goals.
To make sure we’re working as efficiently as possible, our teams at Newton trial new methods and technologies every year. Some of this technology is based on existing agricultural machinery and is being adapted to forestry. From smart fields to self-driving tractors and machines that plant trees, here are a few updates we’ve been working on at Newton.
Glasshouse to grow our saplings
We will soon have a glasshouse the size of two football pitches that can grow up to 19 million trees a year.
This exciting addition will not only significantly increase our ability to grow trees, it will also allow our nursery teams to have more control over the growing environment making the seedlings less vulnerable to damage, competition and browsing.
Energy use in the new building will be offset by solar panels and we are installing a bore hole to supply the water used to irrigate the seeds. Early trials show that this approach could improve our germination rates by almost 60%, making it a more efficient way to grow saplings for Scotland’s ambitious tree planting targets.
New irrigation system
The nursery recently had an underground irrigation system installed that will water this year’s saplings, planted by Tape4Trees.
These small irrigation strips were planted alongside the young trees and run the length of the fields. Just as you can now start your car or turn off the light using your phone, this system is all controlled remotely via an app and small pumphouse located nearby. We can also use sensors in the soil to tell us what the trees need and how much to give them.
This not only saves water but will allow us to use a more targeted approach that will allow us to tell exactly what the trees need and when. This will be particularly helpful during drier spells or knowing what nutrients they might need added.
Tractors that plant trees
We have expanded the number of trees planted using the automated Tape4Trees tractor. This one-of-a-kind technology was developed during a CivTech challenge that we sponsored to help solve the issue of how we can plant enough trees to meet our climate goals.
The tractor was built from different machines already being used in the agricultural sector to plant lettuce and cabbage — Tape4Trees adapted this technology to plant trees. This new system can plant up to one million trees a day, which is significantly quicker and more efficient than using our now more traditional methods.
With all the new technology coming to the nursery, we had to ensure each system was communicating together. This involved making sure everything was running on the same GPS grid.
Our team at Newton have been slowly converting our tractors to use GPS, as is already the case in agriculture. Until recently our tractors had a 50 mm margin of error and were all running on different GPS systems, with this new alignment we are now all on the same system with a 2 mm variable of error.
This will help us ensure we are planning our fields better and have a higher level of accuracy with weeding, planting, and transporting.
Explore our nursery
Learn more about how the nursery works, where the seeds come from, how we care for them at the nursery and how we are modernising for the future.