Robotic challenges in horticulture

Monday, 4 March 2019

Cultivation technology, automation, robotics and sensor-based decision-making tools are all undergoing rapid developments. Josse De Baerdemaeker, University of Leuven, believes it will have an effect on the entire horticultural supply chain 

Labour shortages, perceived unfavorable working conditions, environmental and sustainability concerns over the use of chemical products are all driving the need for improved and novel production technologies. However, these innovations will have a better chance of successful implementation when we also take the biology of the crop into account.

To be effective, we need to be willing to make changes to well-established growing practices, such as crop architecture and fruit distribution, to make the implementation of new technologies as efficient as possible.

Creative use of technology that is already being used, or is in development in other large industrial sectors will also help to make this transition to new technologies more affordable in horticulture.

The rate of development in horticultural innovation is in part being driven by new entrants to the industry, alongside the wide variety of start-up companies that are from outside the traditional agricultural or horticultural field. However, to ensure the most successful implementation, progress will rely on co-engineering developments where crop breeders, growers agronomists and engineers work together to define the role and scope of technologies in the future.

Josse will be speaking at the SmartHort 2019 Conference, 6 and 7 March. You can watch the conference live, at ahdb.org.uk/smarthort.