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

Harvesting white asparagus relies seriously on guide labour, an cost that sites a money strain on farmers. To deal with this, an EU-funded task has produced an automatic harvesting resource that selectively picks only ripe asparagus and doesn’t damage the crop. This will save farmers income, improves crop excellent and gets rid of the want for back-breaking get the job done.

© Cerescon 2020

Selective harvesting requires buying areas of the crop that are ripe, without having detrimental areas of the crop that want to be harvested at a afterwards time or remaining in the soil. At the minute, this approach is only carried out by hand. Common illustrations of selectively harvested crops include tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, melons, blueberries and raspberries.

“This is also the situation for white asparagus,” claims SPARTerS task coordinator Thérèse van Vinken of Cerescon in the Netherlands. “The European current market is currently worthy of about EUR 800 million a 12 months, but regrettably the entire marketplace is under danger. This is partly simply because the range of hand pickers is declining 12 months by 12 months, when the cost of guide labour proceeds to increase.”

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

Automated harvesting answer

To deal with these challenges, the EU-funded SPARTerS task has targeted on bringing to current market a mechanised selective harvesting equipment. The essential goal of this innovation is to reduce asparagus harvesting costs, as properly as increasing the excellent and quantity of the crop.

“The answer is primarily based on a patented underground detection approach,” describes van Vinken. “Sensors detect the asparagus as it grows underground, without having coming into contact with it. This suggests that the crop remains undamaged.”

At this position, information 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 one movement, positioning it on a conveyor. The gap remaining guiding in the sand mattress is then fixed, to avert the future crop from increasing curved.

Trials have revealed that applying the Sparter equipment can slice the cost of harvesting by 50 percent, in element from financial savings on labour costs but also simply because the crop is not weakened and there is tiny wastage.

“All kinds of information can be gathered from the underground sensors,” provides van Vinken. “This can assist ensure that crop yields are additional predictable.” For case in point, farmers can be made conscious of the want for fertilisation or irrigation at a selected time, or in a selected location of the subject.

Asparagus growers have been instrumental in the progress of Sparter from the beginning. “We fashioned a UserGroup, made up of growers in the Netherlands and Germany,” describes van Vinken. “These farmers delivered considerable comments on the progress of this technology and have also been vital in providing us with info on their precise prerequisites, services and buying costs.”

Upcoming of farming

Van Vinken thinks that the Sparter innovation represents the future of asparagus farming, particularly in light-weight of the coronavirus epidemic. Growers, seriously dependent on guide labour to are likely their asparagus beds, have been remaining in disaster right after borders have been closed.

“Selective harvesting in western Europe is generally carried out by momentary staff who come from abroad,” describes van Vinken. “As many of these staff have been not able to travel, farmers have been not able to are likely their crops. In some occasions, amongst 70 and eighty % of asparagus beds have been remaining unharvested.”

A further position is that guide white asparagus harvesting is major, bodily and demanding get the job done. Transitioning to automatic selective harvesting promises to generate additional skilled and greater capable positions that target on equipment operation and sorting.
Regardless of the challenges the sector faces, Europe nonetheless represents practically one 3rd of the world’s asparagus current market. Van Vinken is self-assured that this remains a rewarding current market that can be crafted upon and enhanced with the application of technology.
In truth, SPARTerS is unquestionably main the way – due to the success of the EU-funded task, the task group have also not long ago acquired an added EUR three million from non-public resources to carry on their get the job done.