More than a year ago, in a Dutch asparagus field, Cerescon proudly presented its 0 series of the Sparter to the press. This was the first selective asparagus harvest in the world. Yesterday the company, which employs 13 people, filed for suspension of payments.
"A confluence of circumstances" is how director Denick Murraij describes this step. "As a high-tech company, we've been a pioneer in the agro sector for years. There were numerous hurdles to overcome, both in the technical area and the market introduction. Now, however, several circumstances have converged."
"These make it very difficult to make the investments necessary to take the next step. With all its increased costs and delivery times, the business climate plays a big role in that. As does the money we still need to spend to get the harvest robot completely practice-ready."
Sparter's patented underground detection method makes it unique. The advanced proximity sensors detect the asparagus underground without touching it. The machines can then select which asparagus it can or cannot harvest. The asparagus' coordinates are passed on to a stabbing robot. This stabs the asparagus from the top of the bed and removes it in one motion, and deposits it on a conveyor belt.
"Having to apply for this suspension proves how hard it is to market our machine's high-tech techniques. Cerescon was the first to use these in the field. We've always been at the forefront in this. We spent the past year trying to find all kinds of further investment possibilities, but we now have to conclude that it's very tough to meet our obligations. But we hope to continue and hope those parties we've not yet reached will become apparent as soon as possible," Denick concludes.
Cerescon was founded in late 2014. Shortly after, they set up a UserGroup with several innovative Dutch and German growers, who intensively participated in the development. They provided Cerescon with product requirements, test facilities, and business information around production costs.
They also gave feedback on Cerescon's developments and technical choices. Currently, there are three customer machines, two demonstration machines, and one test machine running in practice. The goal was to scale up production to 150 machines per year in five years.