The Belgian R&D company, the Octinion Technology Group, presented its self-driving strawberry picker at this year's Fruit Logistica. This device took five years to develop. According to the developers, this development is essential for the sector.
A robot that not only drives itself through the strawberry fields. It also detects ripe fruit, picks them without damaging them, and immediately sorts them, ready for final packaging. This idea may sound futuristic, but according to Octinion, this is now possible thanks to Rubion.
Rubion is a strawberry picking robot. This solution from this company, which is based in Leuven, Belgium, not only solves the labor problems in the sector. It also allows growers to have a better quality product. In this end, this only benefits the consumer.
Agricultural robotics: more than just a trend
Demographic and socio-economic figures indicate that the labor shortage is worse than most people think. However, for Octinion, increased quality is of far more importance.
"Thanks to robotization, much more is possible that anyone ever thought", says Tom Coen, CEO of the Octinion Technology Group. "Harvest estimates, picking according to the market demand, but also simply picking the strawberries when they are ready. This, instead of having to wait for pickers to become available."
"These are just a few of the real advantages for the farmer. However, there are also benefits for the consumer. They are going to find fresher strawberries in the stores. These will also have fewer bruises."
Introducing robotization to a sector where, up to now, almost all the work had been done by hand is a true revolution. More than ever, cooperation is the key. Tom Coen says, “We have worked closely with not only growers and test centers in recent years. Breeders are also welcoming our technological developments."
"Cultivation systems and varieties will be adapted to suit the robot. For example, a robot will be in use at the Dutch company, Fresh Forward Breeding. There are also other collaborations with breeders which will give form to the sector's future. Our doors are open to additional breeders."
Five years in the making by the Leuven team
In 2014, this group of Belgian engineers started developing this robot. In the past, various companies from all over the world have presented concepts. However, Octinion is the first to propose a commercial product.
According to Product Manager, Laura Guillaume, this is no surprise. "We developed this robot entirely from scratch. In doing so, we succeeded in making an economically viable product. We can service any grower, whether they cultivate in a greenhouse or tunnels. They must just have an elevated cultivation system."
This company is also now starting with sales of a whole range of products for strawberry cultivation. This is besides the picking robot. The Octinion Technology Group is also planning to bring other harvesting robots for other crops onto the market in the future.
Opening of Roeselare branch
Octinion is an R&D company that specializes in mechatronic product development. These are used with biological materials. This specialization means they are mostly active in the agricultural and foodstuffs industries.
The company has been in existence since 2009. They have just under 50 employees and have offices in Leuven and Roeselare. Roeselare was opened on 17 January 2019. "The location in the Food Valley was strategically chosen for the start-up of Octinion Agriculture. This branch will introduce our innovative mechatronic products to the agricultural sector", the company says.