Innovation in both production and their plant assortment is key for Spring Meadow Nursery, a US wholesale shrub liner nursery that is based in Michigan. Dr. Judson LeCompte, Product Development Assistant Manager, discusses the necessity and benefits of innovation and the importance of taking risks.
Dr. Judson LeCompte
Production innovation to reduce demand for labor
According to Dr. LeCompte, investing in production innovation has long been a key value at Spring Meadow. “Labor shortage is always going to be an issue for us. That is why we prioritize production innovation, as it not only reduces our demand for labor but it also creates more efficiency. Heated floors, high-pressure fog, and shade and heat retention curtains in our six acres of prop houses encourage rapid rooting, speeding up production and minimizing backorders.” Also, a lot of Spring Meadow’s production process has been automated. For example, they use the TTA Plugsorter Liner Grading Machine, which grades and sorts up to 8.000 plants per hour. “The TTA Liner Transplanter transplants 360 flats per hour, whereas manual transplanting would result in about 52 flats per hour.”
“We also invest heavily in our Research and Development department, as we strive to be innovative with our plant assortment. For example, we look at genera that nobody even thought about putting in the catalogue. If we get a wild idea of a certain plant we want to breed, we can turn to our internal breeding team and we just see where it goes. What sets us apart is that Spring Meadow Nursery is willing to take those risks that lead to innovative plants,” he adds. As Dr. LeCompte is originally from Alabama, he explains that the shrubs he is used to are quite different from what Spring Meadow has traditionally offered. “It is exciting for me to get some warmer climate selections into the catalogue, and woody plants that can handle heat is something that we are currently working on.”
The busiest year in horticulture
Dr. LeCompte, recently named as an honoree in Greenhouse Product News’ 40 Under 40 Class of 2021, started his position at Spring Meadow in April 2020, during a year that has probably been the busiest anyone in horticulture has ever seen. “It was a bit of a scary time, as I had to move from Texas to Michigan and start a new job in the middle of a pandemic. But fortunately, it is a very exciting job and we are working hard to keep up with production and demand. We have got a lot of new gardeners in the US and Europe, which we are very excited about. Our job now is to keep engaging them and supplying them with good-quality plants.” In order to do so, he works with breeders worldwide to develop and trial their plants at Spring Meadow Nursery and evaluate them in different locations with the goal of their ultimate inclusion in the Proven Winners ColorChoice Flowering Shrubs brand.