Berg Hortimotive Group has handed over the first series of Plantalyzer harvest forecast robots for tomatoes to Royal Brinkman. The robot drives autonomously through the greenhouse and takes targeted pictures of the tomatoes. Vision software and algorithms assess the fruits for ripeness and translate the images into a reliable and accurate harvest forecast. “We are enormously proud of the result of the collaboration,” responds Royal Brinkman board member Ramon Verdel. “Growers are really waiting for this.”
The transfer is the provisional conclusion of four years of development work by Berg Hortimotive (mechanisation) and HortiKey (digitisation), with input from Wageningen University & Research (phenotyping software), LetsGrow.com (prognostication) and Prominent/Roots Growers (testing). “We presented the first prototype in 2018 and a lot of hard work has been done over the past two years to bring the functionality and reliability of the concept to the level that growers desire,” explains General Manager Andreas Hofland of HortiKey. “The commitment of the growers’ association Prominent and the nursery Roots Growers was invaluable in this context.
The ingenuity of the Plantalyzer lies in the unique combination of high-quality hardware and intelligent software. A measuring protocol has been developed for reliable, random data collection and photographs are taken at three different heights to monitor crop and fruit development over time. Phenotyping software identifies and classifies the bunches and fruits according to maturity. The data is then sent to LetsGrow.com, where in combination with other crop and climate data, a rolling harvest prognosis is compiled for the next four weeks.
Reliable harvest prognosis
Verdel notes that reliable harvest prognoses are of strategic importance to growers. At the moment, they rely on human observations. These are expensive and prone to errors or differences in interpretation. In combination with the right software, autonomous robots can predict more reliably at lower costs. “This solution fits in seamlessly with the developments around data-driven cultivation,” says the director responsible for product innovation. “We will continue with our programme to automate and digitise production and harvesting processes in the greenhouse. The Plantalyzer is the first product to emerge from this.”
The Let’s Improve Together programme was initiated by Royal Brinkman two years ago. Managing Director – CEO Marco van der Velden of Berg Hortimotive Group: “As sister companies, we have worked closely and very fruitfully together. The first five robots will soon find their way to the market and the next series is already being built. The expectation was that mainly Dutch and Belgian companies would be interested. They are, but there is also serious interest from Mexico, North America and Russia, among others. Good service and guidance are a requirement and thanks to the global network of the group as a whole, we are able to provide this well.”