Cerescon has developed the first selective asparagus harvesting robot, the Sparter. This Dutch company recently received additional financing to the tune of €3 million. Cerescon is using the extra capital to get off to a flying start in the Sparter's production and sales. During the current asparagus season, this single row, self-driving harvester was extensively demonstrated.
The Sparter prototype
Cerescon's new, private investor is a successful businessman from the Dutch province of Brabant. "The Sparter's unique technology, combined with Cerescon's mindset and strong team, impressed me. Cerescon and the asparagus market offer enormous potential. I consider this a great investment opportunity," says the investor.
The Sparter's asparagus cutting knife
Robotic developments are coming thick and fast in the agricultural sector. A lot of work is also being done in the asparagus sector. Finding enough of the right workers to harvest asparagus remains asparagus growers' biggest challenge. The corona crisis has only exasperated the problem. There is an increasing need for asparagus harvesting automation.
Many asparagus farmers are currently experiencing a 30% shortage of manual laborers. "The demand from growers interested in the Sparter has doubled since the start of the corona crisis. It is now tougher than ever to find manual labor," says Mark van Lier, Cerescon's international sales manager.
The Sparter prototype
Production set up
Cerescon faces the challenge of commercially producing large numbers of Sparters. In five years, Cerescon wants to be able to build 150 machines per year. They are going to achieve this by working with several partners. These are big players in the Brainport manufacturing industry. They are confident of a stable production setup.
This is due to previous years' good partnership experiences and staff knowledge. Cerescon is an outsourcing company - it does the development itself but uses partners for production. Cerescon will use reputable parties for the Sparter's marketing and service in the market too.
Various contacts and contracts have already been set up for this. Thérèse van Vinken, Cerescon's general manager, says, "Setting and scaling up the manufacturing of the numbers Cerescon has in mind not only demands the correct market partners. You also need a sound financial base. The current financing guarantees that. We are delighted with this assurance of continuity."
"What makes the Sparter unique is its underground detection method. That not only reduces harvesting costs by 50%. It also makes for a higher volume and quality asparagus harvest. The detection technology is further optimized. It is combined with an integrated double cutting robot, soil bed repair, asparagus transportation, and plastic handling. The self-driving harvester with its caterpillar wheels was demonstrated to several Dutch and German farmers this season.
The single-row Sparter replaces roughly 25 manual laborers. The self-driving concept makes a tractor and driver redundant. The harvester's compact size means it can be used on smaller fields with standard headlands. The machine can also easily be transported on the road, using a trailer. A single operator can control the Sparter," concludes a Cerescon spokesperson.