Consortium accelerates development and application of robots in greenhouse horticulture

A broad consortium of horticultural organizations and research institutes has started a multi-year program for the development of robotics in greenhouse horticulture. To this end, the consortium works together within the existing RoboCrops programme. Participants are FME, AVAG, TU Delft, Glastuinbouw Nederland, InnovationQuarter, Topsector Tuinbouw & Uitgangsmaterialen, Greenport West-Holland, Wageningen University & Research and World Horti Center.

Digitization will radically change greenhouse horticulture. An example of this is autonomous cultivation: the grower is then supported in cultivation decisions based on, among other things, growth models, big data and artificial intelligence. Robotics also play a role in this, for example for implementing cultivation measures and analysing the crop. Such robots are already active at various greenhouse horticulture companies.

RoboCrops event November 24 and 25

A few years ago, the RoboCrops program was launched, which aims to accelerate the development of robotics in greenhouse horticulture. To this end, RoboCrops focuses on matchmaking, knowledge sharing and events. For example, RoboCrops is organizing a live event on 24 and 25 November in the World Horti Center that focuses on new developments in the field of robotics. The program will be announced shortly.

Multi-year program

FME, AVAG, TU Delft, Glastuinbouw Nederland, InnovationQuarter, Topsector Tuinbouw & Uitgangsmaterialen, Greenport West-Holland, Wageningen University & Research and World Horti Center have joined forces to take the next step in the development of robotics. For example, the consortium will focus on the development of robotics in the autonomous greenhouse. This is a multi-year collaboration that falls under the RoboCrops program.

An important motive for robotization in greenhouse horticulture is that green knowledge is becoming increasingly scarce among growers and employees. Robots make it possible to realize higher and more uniform productions, partly because more and better data about cultivation can be generated. This also makes new revenue models possible, such as ‘Growing as a Service’. This concept includes Unmanned growing (remote cultivation) and Digital trading (whereby producer and buyer make different agreements about the cultivation and delivery of horticultural products).

Faster and more uniform harvesting

One of the horticultural companies where modern robots are already active is rose nursery Porta Nova in Waddinxveen. It is important in the RoboCrops program to show what is already available in the field of robots in horticulture. A very good example of this is the GearRover with harvesting assistance from Gearbox from Maasdijk. The GearRover is a moving robot on which an employee can move through the greenhouse. This digital harvest assistant contains a camera that images the bed of roses, and the software has learned to recognize which flowers are in which growth stage. A coloured laser then indicates which rose may be cut.

The harvest employee, therefore, knows exactly which stem needs to be cut. As a result, the harvest is uniform and harvesting is much faster. In addition, the grower gains insight into the number of roses in the greenhouse. Rose grower Leon Dukker: “Even people who have been harvesting for years sometimes have doubts. Then they walk a few meters and then come back to that one rose. The GearRover helps them make decisions.” Together with Porta Nova, Berg Roses, Van Veen Gerbera and Colours of Nature, Gearbox is working on the further development of the GearRover with Harvesting Assistance for both rose and gerbera: this can be seen during the RoboCrops event on November 24 and 25. Watch this video of the GearRover as it is already being used in practice:

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