HortiKey is contracting Wageningen University and Research Centre and Berg Hortimotive for the realisation of the Plantalyzer. The Plantalyzer automatically measures the tomatoes in the greenhouse while they have not yet been harvested, and so are still hanging on the plant. The Plantalyzer as a counting system for tomatoes gives the grower objectively determined information about the quantity and ripeness of fruit. HortiKey uses this data to expand the system to an accurate crop estimate.
In 2016, HortiKey introduced the CHIMP concept, the Crop Health & Information Monitoring Platform. ‘The CHIMP clearly demonstrated that HortiKey is taking us towards data collection in the greenhouse’, says Andreas Hofland, general manager of HortiKey. ‘The Plantalyzer is the first product to be realised based on this concept. The Plantalyzer is used to record the tomato stocks in the greenhouse automatically. It not only counts the numbers, but the colour stages are also measured.’ In combination with the figures for the realised harvest, HortiKey is continuing developments in order eventually to support the grower in an accurate crop estimate.
Image processing by Wageningen UR
Wageningen University and Research Centre has been selected because they have ample knowledge and experience with measuring tall crops in the greenhouse. Among other things, Wageningen UR has in the past gained experience in the EU-financed projects SpySee, Crops and Gezonde Kas, using camera systems for image capture of high-upright growing crops in the greenhouse and the associated image processing. ‘By choosing Wageningen UR, we are not starting from scratch, but we can use public knowledge and experiences that has already been developed’, according to Hofland. Moreover, in this way we can incorporate the new technologies in the Plantalyzer, which is essential for being able to realise the goal of giving crop estimates. This is about the commitment of high-grade technology and knowledge.
New AGV technology
Berg Hortimotive has been selected because of its new Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) technology. ‘Of course, the fact that HortiKey is a start-up within the Berg group also plays a part, but still HortiKey makes its own choice in the correct technology’, explains Hofland. ‘Berg Hortimotive was chosen because they have developed a new AGV platform, whereby the trolley’s location is always known’. ‘That is crucial if one needs to make automatic recordings. Moreover, the AGV can move around autonomously from path to path, so that the grower has nothing to worry about.’
Plantalyzer and AGV as onse system
When asked how the different systems will be combined into one working product, Hofland says: ‘Berg Hortimotive can manufacture the Plantalyzer as a complete system, so with the cameras and software integrated. They can also take it into service worldwide via its extensive dealer network.’
First series are for sale
The first series of four are now being sold to growers. ‘The first group of users will provide us with experience on how often, where and when measurements need to be made for obtaining reliable data. Based on this practical data, and combined with the harvest figures, we will develop an algorithm for the crop estimates’, according to Hofland. The planning assumes that the first four Plantalyzers will start taking measurements in customer greenhouses in 2018.