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Practice tests of asparagus harvesting robot in 2018
AvL Motion, a company from the Dutch village of Westerbeek, has been working on a compact, selective harvesting robot for asparagus in the past year. In the summer of 2017, a complete prototype had its first successful test. The development of the robot is now in the stage of continued development. At the start of the 2018 asparagus season, the robot will be extensively tested again. The plan is that the robot will be widely marketed after that, and it will then be seen in operation on Dutch and German asparagus fields.
Due to modern techniques, the harvesting machine drives at a constant speed while the asparagus is harvested without becoming damaged, according to the company. After the location of the asparagus is accurately decided, a harvesting module cuts off the asparagus at the correct length. This is then lifted from the soil by grippers. This way, one harvesting action lasts much shorter than in a traditional harvesting act.
Fewer seasonal workers
The harvesting robot offers a solution for the increasing scarcity on the labour market for seasonal workers. The machine can be in operation non-stop. Of every eight hours, one hour on average is spent on taking the asparagus from the machine, and turning it at the end of a row. The machine is operated by just one person. This can save the employment of about 27 workers per season, the amount of workers usually needed at a 15-hectare plot. The harvesting robot also provides an administrative burden relief when employing migrant workers.
Many asparagus plots have a short headland in the Netherlands. Because the machine has to be user-friendly, it therefore has to be compact, so it can easily turn. Another reason to keep the design as compact as possible is the transport between the various plots. Transport is done by means of the included and custom-made trailer. That same car will be used (if a maintenance and service agreement has been entered into) to pick up the machine for maintenance at the end of each season.
Not much chance of holdups
The idea was to develop a functional machine without too much high-tech control technology. The robot has relatively little control technology, and it mostly uses mechanics. The chance of holdups due to, for example, wind, changing temperatures and other climate conditions, is minimised because of this. This way, any mechanical failure can be fixed quicker (compared to a software failure), which results in maximum yield from the machine during the limited harvesting time. Continual inspections ensure that the machine can continually harvest. If a sensor breaks down, but a maintenance light comes on, it becomes clear that a possible service is required.
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Publication date: 10/9/2017
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