Modular Trellis System for Brambles

Period of Performance: 01/01/2009 - 12/31/2009


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Trellis Growing Systems LLC
2427 S HADLEY RD Array
Fort Wayne, IN 46804
Principal Investigator


Trellis installation is a major expense for establishing new commercial blackberry or raspberry (bramble) plantings. Research by the USDA and universities clearly demonstrates that by developing novel trellis designs and methods of manipulating bramble canes, costs of labor for cane pruning and training and winter injury can be reduced and hand-and mechanically-harvested efficiency, fruit quality and yield can all be improved. A system like the Rotatable Cross Arm (RCA) improves hand harvest efficiency, can be combined with a winter protection technique and is amenable to harvesting fresh market quality fruit with an over-the-row mechanical harvester. But, the high cost of trellis posts and hardware has limited the expansion of this system into the commercial sector. In Phase I of this SBIR project, Trellis Growing Systems (TGS), LLC proved the feasibility of an improved modular trellis concept. Based on the RCA design, TGS, in partnership with USDA and Cornell University, developed the AV trellis system. Phase I included successful demonstration of laboratory load testing on fiber reinforced trellis post, cross arm components and aluminum brackets and hardware. Phase I also included successful field trials of the RCA and AV trellis systems at TGS (Fort Wayne, IN), Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) and USDA-ARS (Kearneysville, WV). Phase I efforts also focused on reducing the estimated production cost of the RCA trellis design by 50 percent. At the end of Phase I, TGS reduced costs by 46 percent; Phase II will focus on surpassing the 50 percent cost reduction goal. Phase II will also focus on researching innovative manufacturing technology to design fiber reinforced low-cost components. These components must offer easy in-ground installation, the ability to be configured to create a range of designs needed for commercial bramble production and offer easy disassembly. Phase II will continue the successful partnerships offered in Phase I with the USDA (Kearneysville, WV) and Cornell University (Ithaca, NY). Efforts will focus on RCA Trellis System for blackberries at USDA and on AV trellis systems for high tunnel production of red raspberries and black raspberries at Cornell University. Phase II objectives are: (1) design and prototype rotatable cross arm (RCA) and adjustable V (AV) trellis systems; (2) lab test trellis system components; (3) field test prototype systems for structural integrity and functionality; (4) beta test prototype systems with growers and research institutions; (5) analyze costs (material, manufacturing, packaging and shipping); (6) measure and quantify the value of product features; and, (7) develop final reports. Successful completion of Phase II objectives will lead to the commercialization of the AV trellis system. Potential markets include both commercial producers as well as home gardeners. Based on a technology niche assessment conducted by Foresight Science and Technology, a new light-weight, easy to install and affordable trellis system offers extensive promise in today's marketplace.