Leo van den Harg, of the potted rose nursery in Vierpolders that bears his name, bought a Rombomatic ten years ago: a combination of four robots that takes cuttings from roses and subsequently roots them. ‘In the spring, we use it 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.’

What prompted you to buy this robot?

‘We were on the brink of an expansion, which would mean having to take as many as 400,000 cuttings a week for several weeks at a time. People can easily develop neck and shoulder complaints from this. Also: you can explain precisely to people how you want them to take certain cuttings, and root them, but people will always be people, if you know what I mean. If you use a robot you can be assured of a uniform quality.’

How long does it take for the investment of a robot to pay itself back?

‘Thanks to the robot I need fewer workers to take the cuttings and root them. Still, the reduction in personnel costs did not enable me to earn back my investment immediately. However, after a few expansions our investment in the Rombomatic was amply paid back. The Rombomatic also relieves my workers from heavy manual labour: all they have to do is put the cuttings in position. The only equipment they need to do this comfortably is a good chair.’

Does a robot always perform its duties?

‘Absolutely. In spring we use it 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Three years ago we had four robots replaced. By that time we had rooted 125 million cuttings. That’s 125 million movements! We began to get an increasing number of malfunctions due to wear and tear. Of course, that wasn’t a huge problem: if one robot was out of operation, the other three can continue working. However, the capacity of the Rombomatic then drops to 80%. A big bonus was that the robots were replaced by new ones that work 10% faster.’

Do you use any other robots in addition to the ones that clip and root cuttings?

‘We make use of a packaging robot, but I wouldn’t really call that a genuine robot. That is more a question of automating repetitive movements. The same applies to the robots that pick up and move plants. Besides that, we don’t have any other duties here that could be performed by a robot.’

Text: Tuinbouwteksten.nl/Mario van Vliet. Photo: Mario Bentvelsen.

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