expoSE- and expoDirekt-Innovation Awards 2019:

A look into the near future: Strawberry picking robots & packaging as recyclable as asparagus peels

As part of the opening ceremony, the Association of South German Asparagus and Strawberry Growers (Verband Süddeutscher Spargel- und Erdbeeranbauer) awarded the "Best of 2019" innovation prizes for market-relevant innovations at Messe Karlsruhe on 20 November.

Out of 31 entries, three expoSE innovations and three expoDirekt innovations will each receive an innovation prize. "The lack of harvest workers is a major issue for vegetable and fruit growing - and we are therefore delighted to have two innovation prize winners who will reduce the number of employees through their machine development. The packaging manufacturers at expoDirekt are also innovative and sustainable, and they were able to convince the jury with three very different products," explains Simon Schumacher, VSSE spokesman and organiser of the trade fair duo.

The Ministry for Rural Areas and Consumer Protection is intensively dealing with the growth rates of the asparagus and berry sector. With approximately 3,500 hectares of strawberry cultivation acreage, 68 hectares of which are organic and 218 hectares protected, Baden-Württemberg is currently the second largest producer in Germany. Although the total yield this year was below the previous year's level, the revenues per hectare increased by approx. 3%. 

Asparagus is cultivated on about a quarter of the total vegetable cultivation area in Baden-Württemberg. The cultivation still shows an upward trend. "This year the total yield amounted to 10,900 tons with a total area of 3,200 ha. However, the next few years will bring many new fields into the yield, they continued. In addition, a lot is being invested in film so that asparagus can also be grown on heavy soils.

The winners of the expoSE Innovation Awards 2019
The Cutora row chopper from 4 Disc LLC in Dortmund is specifically designed for strawberry farms. It can work in straw after harvesting or before the new plants bloom, remove weeds between the rows and cut tendrils. The machine can be used outdoors in normal crops and in dam crops with foil. The changeover only takes a few minutes.

The Cutora works with discs for guidance, with a goose foot cutter for full-surface cutting and slices for tendril cutting. For fresh straw, the goosefoot cutter can be exchanged for a double disc coulter to ensure trouble-free operation, even with large quantities of straw. The way the soil is discarded is adaptable, so even at high speeds (up to 15 km/h) the strawberries remain clean and free of soil.


Peter Soltau founded the platform "Bees Help" as an answer to the problems of today's agriculture. The aim of the initiative is to put the consumer's opinion into practice. "We make possible for consumers to pay for a plot of land for bees, directly supporting agriculture," said  Soltau.


The autonomous strawberry picking robot Rubion from Octinion Agriculture in Belgium is currently still being tested, emphasises Mr Drees (l). "Nevertheless, the results so far show a significant reduction in production costs."

The autonomous strawberry picking robot Rubion by Octinion Agriculture from Belgium finds its way across the fields, picking berries without damaging the fruit. Thanks to built-in quality control, the robotic system enables sorting, extended crop monitoring and precision farming. The robot arm picks up the berries and places them in the basket with a gentle movement, each basket containing the selected weight. Picking can take place at the optimum time and also during the night.

The Cutora in-line chopper from 4 Disc GmbH in Dortmund is specially designed for strawberry farms. "The innovation is suitable for both pure open field as well as dam applications and guarantees a high working speed."

The "Bienen Helfen!" concept of Bienenwelt LLC from Eicklingen supports farmers in marketing flowering areas that can also be integrated into a crop rotation. The website bienen-helfen.de functions as a virtual marketplace where suppliers (cooperating farmers) and customers meet. The farmers cooperating with Bienenwelt LLC will make land available and will then manage it in accordance with the cooperation agreement.

For services such as the provision and maintenance of the portal, farmers are charged a flat fee per contract year. The customer can book the service of managing these areas or parts thereof (at least 25 m²) with the farmer of his choice for a calendar year at a price of €0.79 per m² and thus promote flowering areas. At the end of the year, the farmer receives a payment from Bienenwelt LLC for the amount of the bookings made.

Mr. Birkhöfer from TÜTLE Apomore GmbH receives the Innovation Award for his wrapping paper made of beeswax and grass paper. "The CO2 use for our solution is a third lower than that of conventional packaging," he emphasizes.

The winners of the expoDirekt Innovation Awards 2019:
The semi-transparent, moisture-resistant Greet fruit and vegetable bags from the Austrian manufacturer Messerle are 100 percent vegetable and biodegradable, because the paper it consists of is exclusively FSC-certified paper and the prints are done with mineral oil-free ink. Purchased fruit and vegetables remain fresh longer, because the bags "breathe" and are food-safe, i.e. there is no exchange of matter between the packaging and the contents.

Mr. Messerle (l) receives the Innovation Award for his Greet fruit and vegetable bags. "The focus on plastic is highly topical. Our solution -made of sustainable FSC paper- has two major advantages: Firstly, it is semi-transparent and secondly it is suitable for the organic waste bin".

Polish manufacturer SOFRUPAK is bringing its new corrugated cardboard packaging SoFruMiniPak® EcoView, whose separate cover has an opening covered with a transparent cellulose film. This film has a certificate for recycling and composting together with paper waste. SOFRUPAK is the only company in Europe to have developed a CCC (Cellulose CoatedCardboard) technology, which connects the sheets of corrugated board with the cellulose film on the roll. SoFruMiniPak® EcoView packaging has been developed for soft fruit, stone fruit, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and asparagus, among others, and complies with EU requirements for ecological packaging.

The sustainable BEE-PAPER Wax from TÜTLE Apomore LLC consists of cellulose from wood and grass, coated with natural beeswax. The wax creates a microclimate that helps to maintain freshness, moisture and taste. After use, it can be processed into compost with the asparagus peels in organic waste.

Adam Sikorski from SoFruPak receives the Innovation Award for his Eco View soft fruit trays. "Today, exactly one year ago, we presented the first prototypes of this product line here in Karlsruhe. The trays are currently being used in Poland, Germany and Spain," says the proud managing director, who says he believes in "tomorrow's packaging". 

The jury:
The expert jury consisted of the following participants: Ute Heimann (Editor-in-Chief of HOFDirekt), Markus Kirn (strawberry grower from Ingelheim), Isabelle Kokula (asparagus consultant at the district office in Karlsruhe), Thomas Kühlwetter (Editor-in-Chief of Spargel & ErdbeerProfi), Andreas Stamm (board member of the Association of Hessian Direct Marketers) and Thomas Stauder (asparagus and strawberry grower from Mainz).

For more information: www.vsse.de & www.expo-se.de  


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