Wednesday, 10 July 2019
New technologies and uses for robots in horticulture have been capturing the imaginations of growers in recent years, and their adoption in greenhouses across Europe is becoming more common.
Following our trip to this year’s GreenTech RAI conference in Amsterdam, we wanted to share some of the exciting tech and industry innovations which were on-show.
Automation and robotics
With an increase in interest in autonomous greenhouse systems, it’s no surprise that robotics and automation systems were popular with the crowds at GreenTech 2019.
One robot that attracted a lot of attention was the Lowpad automated guided vehicle. Designed to carry heavy loads on roll containers, racks or pallets, this autonomous vehicle can even drop off empty pallets to workers.
Another robot taking on hard work of another sort is the Plantalyzer, a robot which tackles the traditionally time-intensive task of determining the ripeness of tomato crops. The Plantalyzer is one of the many robots showcased at the event which formed part of intelligent yield prediction systems.
Yield prediction itself forms part of another trend from this year’s GreenTech event: integrated automated greenhouse management systems. One such system, the Automated Greenhouse Management platformfrom ecoation, combines autonomous and human scouting vehicles with intelligent decision-making software to gain real-time insight and optimise everything from labour, yield prediction and climate control.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Real-time insight into greenhouse growing was a hot topic at this year’s event, with many technologies competing to offer the most elegant and simple solutions to the most difficult-to-track areas, such area is IPM.
It’s no wonder that Natutec Scout from Koppert Biological Systems took home the coveted GreenTech Innovation Award. Natutec Scout combines a mobile phone app and dashboard to offer instant insight into the integrated pest management (IPM) situation of greenhouse growers
Growers use their mobile phone to take a picture of Horiver sticky traps. The app then uses image recognition software to count the number of insects on the crop. Then, all you need to do is check the Natutec dashboard for a detailed overview of the insects in their greenhouse. You can even get alerts when pest numbers reach potentially harmful levels.
Innovative new technologies such as Natutec Scout provide essential insights for precision growing, which was another focus area for the event.
e-Gro from Grodan takes data from harvesting and inputs from sensors to monitor things like root zone and climate. The software platform then offers growers recommendations for optimisation through a real-time dashboard.
This integrated, data-driven approach to power precision growing requires a substantial time investment from growers, but adoption promises some serious efficiency improvements.
Recently, vertical farming has hit the news in the UK and the event, too, was buzzing with interest in the future of this emerging approach to growing. And, as with any emerging approach, the focus was on optimisation of existing systems.
Companies like Bever Innovations were showcasing new cultivation systems which integrate LEDs into vertical farm trays. The main advantage being lower heat generation from the LED banks and a better spread of light to encourage uniform growing.
Future growing and SmartHort
Adoption and innovation of new technologies is continually growing within horticulture, and it's great to see GreenTech RAI increasing the presence of technology providers in areas such as automation, robotics and precision growing. We're looking forward to what GreenTech 2020 can offer growers and the industry as a whole.
For all the latest on our own horticultural technology work and events, visit our SmartHort page.