Four companies were the recipients of a GreenTech Innovation Award, conferred last Tuesday after the opening of the trade fair in the RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre. But what is so special about their innovative products and services? Read on for a brief interview with Richard Groenewegen of Visser Horti Systems, overall winner of the GreenTech Innovation Award, and Theo Straathof, Managing Director of Micothon, co-winner in the Concept Award category.
Sales Engineer Richard Groenewegen is in charge of designing machines at Visser Horti Systems, winner of the GreenTech Innovation Award. Visser makes filling, planting, pricking out and sowing machines for the young plant industry. ‘We developed a machine together with our customers that automatically transplants cuttings in a pot or tray. The cuttings are sticked using a sort of cartridge: the AutoStix strip, for which we have developed two types of strips: a small one for 51 cuttings and a larger one for 34 cuttings. This system is suitable for 90% of all cuttings – whether from potted plants or cut flowers.’
Sticking cuttings more intelligently
The strips are fed into the machine manually, after which a gripper automatically cuts off a piece of the strip, and transplants the cutting into a pot or tray in the AutoStix. This machine does this much faster than a human being can, who can plant 1,000 cuttings in an hour, explains Groenewegen. ‘Equipped with six grippers, our machine can process 10,000 cuttings per hour – and does this much more accurately, too. As a result, each cutting is planted in exactly the same manner. This leads to better quality and uniformity in the greenhouse.’
Cuttings from the mother stock can be sticked and will take root directly in the biologically degradable strips. This leads to additional savings and shortens the overall cultivation process. ‘Cuttings often take four to six weeks to root. This step can now be skipped. Rooting stations will no longer be necessary,’ says Groenewegen.
Autonomous scouting robot
Theo Straathof is the proud managing director of Micothon. Micothon was conferred a joint GreenTech Concept Award together with Metazet-FormFlex and Ecoation for their IRIS! scout robot. The robot can detect pests and diseases in the greenhouse before they are visible to the naked eye, explains Straathof. ‘What’s revolutionary about the entire thing is the green cabinet with sensors and lamps that radiate laser light. Due to the way in which light is reflected, the robot can see if a plant is affected by a disease or a deficiency in a specific nutrient. The robot – which can scout 1.5 hectares in 12 hours – stores this information and subsequently relays it to Ecoation every day, where the data is analysed. The user will then get a map of his greenhouse within a few hours that shows exactly where every deviation was discovered. This replaces manual scouting.’
The scout robot has a self-learning function that can also be used to collect other data – such as temperature, humidity and CO2. Not only that, it can be equipped with a sensor that registers information like how dirty the greenhouse roof is. Having this data available makes it easier to take targeted action and saves labour, continues Straathof. ‘Scouting requires trained individuals, of which there is a distinct lack – particularly abroad. The robot can also be used to spray specific sections of the greenhouse, or to set out natural enemies. You will , however, need a qualified employee for this.’
The robot was made fully autonomous – this was a requirement – and virtually unbreakable in collaboration with Metazet-FormFlex. The scanner and data processing system were developed by the Canadian firm of Ecoation. The robot is currently still in its prototype stage and will be tested at several horticultural firms after GreenTech. Straathof expects the robot to be launched on the market sometime in 2019.
Author and photos: Mario Bentvelsen.