Berg Hortimotive introduces the next generation of internal transport.
'We firmly believe that in the coming decades, covered horticulture will make a significant contribution to the global food problem. The Dutch horticultural sector has a leading role in this effort. Berg Hortimotive (BHM) forms a part of this cluster, participating directly and actively in it with its smart logistics solutions for cultivation and crop handling’.
Says Marc van den Berg of Berg Hortimotive. Marc is team leader R&D at the company from De Lier. Together with his team, he is working on the last phase of the development of an autonomous harvesting trolley.
Berg's efficient logistics systems make scaling-up possible and increase product quality and therefore also the grower's efficiency. Short, fast transport movements inside the greenhouse contribute to the freshness and quality of the harvested fruit vegetables.
For years, AGV systems (Autonomous Guided Vehicles) have been used for this. All these systems ensure that the harvested product is transported, automatically, within the shortest possible time, from the (warm) greenhouse to the (cool) processing area.
This principle has been further developed over the years. The first systems worked with chain conveyors in the concrete path. The harvesting trolleys were simply hooked to a chain and drove automatically from the greenhouse to the shed and back. The harvesters no longer had to worry about the transport and the products were transported quickly from the greenhouse to the processing area. However, chain conveyors require a lot of maintenance and hygiene is difficult to maintain.
Later werden de kettingen vervangen door een inductiedraad in het beton. Electrotrekkers, voorzien van sensoren volgen het inductiespoor tussen de kas en de schuur en nemen per rit een aantal oogstwagens met zich mee. Dit systeem, wat momenteel het meest gebruikelijk is, kent als belangrijk voordeel dat er nauwelijks onderhoud nodig is.
A disadvantage of the aforementioned system is the necessary infrastructure. At an early stage, the transport lines have to be mapped out and once they have been laid, they cannot be modified easily. ‘This was the specific challenge for our R&D team’ indicates Marc.
The new Berg Hortimotive GridMap Technology makes the induction wire superfluous and is the solution for this specific disadvantage.
This technique enables us to realise fully-automated transport between the greenhouse and the shed without any need for infrastructure. No adjustments are needed that the grower must take account of during the construction. No more tracks need to be laid for transporting the harvested products.
‘We can implement the intelligent harvesting trolley anywhere. It navigates in the greenhouse using various different sensors, we call this Grid Mapping.’
The harvesting trolleys are now being tested extensively at a tomato company. The grower indicates where to harvest in the greenhouse and the trolleys run back and forth automatically. The trolleys ‘remember' where they came from and move along with the harvesters. ‘Our challenge is to make the system user-friendly’. At the moment it is looking very promising.
In the long term, several Berg Hortimotive products are being fitted with GridMap Technology and will navigate the greenhouse autonomously. Therefore, an overall operating system is needed.
We call this BergDrive. This management system maintains an overview, ensuring that the different trolleys work together while giving you as the user important information. It is being set up in a user-friendly way, whereby the assignments are not entered via the keyboard, but you can drag the trolleys on a screen and release them at the right place.
Marc is convinced that this innovation will be playing an important role in the future of horticulture. ‘All forms of transport in a company cost time, while it adds no value to the product. Automating transport can deliver significant cost savings. People are no longer needed to ensure that the correct trolley is in the right place at the right time. Once it is running, nobody needs to intervene anymore, except for the harvesting itself.’
As indicated above, Berg Hortimotive is conducting a final test phase with its new GridMap Technology. The product is expected to be marketed in October this year.
Come along and see for yourself the advantages of GridMap Technology at the GreenTech, booth 11.115.