Automated asparagus harvesting cuts… – Information Centre – Research & Innovation

Harvesting white asparagus depends greatly on handbook labour, an price that locations a economical pressure…

Harvesting white asparagus depends greatly on handbook labour, an price that locations a economical pressure on farmers. To deal with this, an EU-funded undertaking has produced an automated harvesting software that selectively picks only ripe asparagus and doesn’t injury the crop. This will save farmers funds, enhances crop quality and gets rid of the need for again-breaking work.

© Cerescon 2020

Selective harvesting entails selecting sections of the crop that are ripe, without the need of harming sections of the crop that need to be harvested at a later time or remaining in the soil. At the second, this procedure is only carried out by hand. Usual illustrations of selectively harvested crops include things like tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, melons, blueberries and raspberries.

“This is also the situation for white asparagus,” states SPARTerS undertaking coordinator Thérèse van Vinken of Cerescon in the Netherlands. “The European market is currently well worth about EUR 800 million a year, but however the total business is beneath danger. This is partly since the number of hand pickers is declining year by year, while the price of handbook labour continues to rise.”

There are other problems related with hand selecting. Asparagus spears can from time to time go undetected and be remaining sticking out of the sand bed for the future harvesting session. This can guide to discolouration and the asparagus building open up heads.

Automatic harvesting alternative

To deal with these worries, the EU-funded SPARTerS undertaking has targeted on bringing to market a mechanised selective harvesting equipment. The critical goal of this innovation is to reduced asparagus harvesting expenses, as effectively as improving the quality and amount of the crop.

“The alternative is dependent on a patented underground detection method,” explains van Vinken. “Sensors detect the asparagus as it grows underground, without the need of coming into get hold of with it. This signifies that the crop continues to be undamaged.”

At this place, info on the asparagus is transmitted to a patented self-propelled harvesting robot. The robot picks only the asparagus that is prepared to be picked in one particular single motion, placing it on a conveyor. The gap remaining behind in the sand bed is then repaired, to reduce the future crop from developing curved.

Trials have demonstrated that employing the Sparter equipment can minimize the price tag of harvesting by fifty percent, in portion from price savings on labour expenses but also since the crop is not damaged and there is very little wastage.

“All kinds of info can be gathered from the underground sensors,” adds van Vinken. “This can help be certain that crop yields are much more predictable.” For case in point, farmers can be created knowledgeable of the need for fertilisation or irrigation at a certain time, or in a certain location of the subject.

Asparagus growers have been instrumental in the enhancement of Sparter from the beginning. “We shaped a UserGroup, created up of growers in the Netherlands and Germany,” explains van Vinken. “These farmers offered extensive suggestions on the enhancement of this know-how and have also been crucial in delivering us with information and facts on their specific demands, facilities and selecting expenses.”

Foreseeable future of farming

Van Vinken believes that the Sparter innovation signifies the foreseeable future of asparagus farming, especially in light-weight of the coronavirus epidemic. Growers, greatly dependent on handbook labour to tend their asparagus beds, were being remaining in disaster immediately after borders were being shut.

“Selective harvesting in western Europe is ordinarily carried out by momentary personnel who come from overseas,” explains van Vinken. “As numerous of these personnel were being unable to travel, farmers were being unable to tend their crops. In some scenarios, concerning 70 and 80 % of asparagus beds were being remaining unharvested.”

An additional place is that handbook white asparagus harvesting is hefty, actual physical and demanding work. Transitioning to automated selective harvesting guarantees to create much more experienced and superior capable work opportunities that aim on equipment procedure and sorting.
Inspite of the worries the sector faces, Europe continue to signifies nearly one particular third of the world’s asparagus market. Van Vinken is confident that this continues to be a profitable market that can be designed upon and improved with the application of know-how.
In fact, SPARTerS is certainly leading the way – due to the results of the EU-funded undertaking, the undertaking workforce have also a short while ago acquired an added EUR 3 million from private sources to continue on their work.