If you are getting into hemp farming this year, you are not alone. Thousands of others are entering the market. Those new farmers are creating demand for farm services and for equipment. The more you can do yourself the better prepared you will be to thrive in this emerging market.
If you have not purchased a transplanter (and 75+ horse tractor) or reserved the services of such, you will be greatly challenged to find one in time for the coming grow season. We built our own both to save money and because we were not sure that we wanted to make that purchase. Our planter cost $550 in materials and required several days to build. If we did not already have water tanks we would have spent another $300. Caution – welding is required.
Your planter will need to pass over the bed and drip tape; create a hole (optionally fill it with water); and position workers to insert seed starts into the prepped hole. It will also need to carry water and a supply of starts. We used a Kubota UTV as the power source. Our set up with four people was able to plant 10,000 starts over a weekend.
We started with a basic 4′ x 8′ light duty trailer. Craigslist showed one nearby. Perfect. First task was to create a water wheel. The water wheel is a metal wheel that rolls along the ground with a single spike. The spike creates the planting hole. We built the wheel such that each hole was automatically filled with a water/mycorrhizae solution. Each time the hole is made, the wheel automatically fills it with about a quart of solution.
The planter could be built without the auto-fill feature. One could simply have a worker perform that task manually. But making it work is relatively easy and saves that third set of hands.
You will need a wheel with spike to create the hole. Do your calculation for plant spacing. If you want 48″ spacing, divide 48″ by pi (3.14). you will want a wheel with diameter of 15.25″. Be sure your wheel has weight and traction. The wheel needs to rolls evenly. We found that adding angle iron worked reasonably well.
The axle should be hollow to allow water flow. Spike should be roughly 6″ long. Drill holes through the center of the axle so that water which is piped into the axle will keep the wheel filled. A single hole at the base of the spike will allow a water fill upon each revolution. We attached a clamp fitting on the end. The wheel assembly should be able to lift up for transitioning the planter between rows.
The seats can be easily purchased from a raft supplier. Ours came off a 20- year old cataraft. Here we calculate the height our planters want to be which is between 4-6″ above the soil catching on rocks – and drip tape – is a pain. If in doubt go high. The angle of the seats is important for comfort. Swivel seats can resolve that issue, but foot rests help a great deal.
Once complete, we added an umbrella stand and drink holders for decadence.
Water tanks rode in the Kubota and the trailer. a simple hose with shutoff connected to the water wheel axle. Raising and lowering the assembly can be done by a third person on the trailer who preps start trays, moves hoses and fixes the random issues that will present themselves.