A. van Nieuwenhuijzen
Mechanisatie en automatisering in de tuinbouw
Report 2005.TL.7019, Transport Engineering and Logistics.
Market gardeners apply more and more automation at their companies. The
main reason for this is costs saving. In the horticulture however there
are still a lot of processes that are not yet automated. The aim of this
report is presenting an overview of mechanization and automation in the
horticulture. This overview discusses particularly the transport and
logistics with respect to planting, harvesting and processing of the
plants. The aspects which come up for discussion are: the developments of
mechanisation and automation so far, a description of the present
mechanized and automated processes, the reasons to apply automation, the
corresponding issues and possible future developments concerning
automation. This overview distinguishes between field horticulture, where
plants grow on fields in the open air, and greenhouse horticulture, where
the plants grow in greenhouses. This report has been based on a literature
research and interviews with people of several institutions.
An important development for the field horticulture was the development of
the tractor, which provides the operating and propelling of many devices.
First the mechanisation of tillage was emphasised. It was not
cost-effective to mechanize or automatize other processes from the
horticulture, as market gardeners cultivate all kinds of types vegetables
and every culture has its own demands on mechanization and automation.
This changed about 25 years ago with the specialization of market gardens.
Now the automation of planting, harvesting, sorting and processing of the
plant is emphasised. A recent development concerning automation is the use
of GPS, through which tractors can be automatically controlled and
conditions of the soil can be mapped.
The tube rail was the basis for the rise of mechanisation and automation
in the greenhouse horticulture. Because of this, transporting plants
became easier for the employees. The first automated processes were the
processes from the cultivation of plants and later on processes from the
cultivation of pot plants, cut flowers and vegetables were also automated.
Nowadays automation is applied to transporting plant, such as moving
groups of pot plants, rose bushes, or flat containers in which cut flowers
grow. Beside automatic transporting, there are also systems that
automatically sort the plant by means of a camera that assesses the
Automation is not yet often applied in the field horticulture compared
with the greenhouse horticulture. The most important reasons to apply
automation in the field horticulture are: savings in labour, a better
uniformity of the harvest and market gardeners can better adapt to the
wishes of the customers. The expectations for the future are: further
developments of automatic plant machines and mobile packing stations, an
increased use of these machines and GPS and automatically sorting by a
camera will become more and more important for automation in field
horticulture. The following issues must be taking into account to apply
automation in the field horticulture: the yields of some cultures are too
low to recover investments, some cultures have too high demands on
automation, market gardeners don't accept too much changes concerning the
method of cultivating and the increasing weight of the devices causes a
worse quality of the harvest and a lower yield.
Compared with the greenhouse horticulture, automation is often applied in
the field horticulture. The most important reasons to apply automation in
the greenhouse horticulture are also: savings in labour, a better
uniformity of the harvest and a better adaptation to the wishes of the
customers. A lower power consumption is also an important reason to
automate. However, this reason only applies to the greenhouse
horticulture. The expectations for the future are: a further increase of
mobile cultivating of several types of cut flowers and vegetables,
processes where pot plants are packed and put on loading units will be
automated and an increase in the use of operating systems which consists
of modules. It is also expected that tracking & tracing will become
more and more important for automation in field and greenhouses
horticulture. Also here, the following issues must be taking into account
to apply automation: too low yields, too high demands on automation and
too many changes concerning the method of cultivating aren't accepted. It
must also be taking into account that mobile cultivating, automatic moving
of the vegetation, can reduce the increase of the power consumption only
to a certain extent, while the price of gas is still increasing.
Reports on Transport Engineering and Logistics (in Dutch)
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