Bever Innovations’ Horticulture division has earned itself a strong position in the horticulture market within a short space of time. It has managed to do so with such technologies as the Leaf Carrier, which is a cultivation trolley with an intelligent LED lighting system enabling vegetable and plant production to be maximised, while minimising the required surface area.
‘The Leaf Carrier can be part of a total solution’, says Johan Katerberg, Business Development Manager Urban Farming at Bever Innovations. ‘In close cooperation with various robot suppliers and customers or prospects, we work continuously on new, pioneering technologies that enable efficient, automated plant cultivation. Consider for example cultivation trolleys that move around autonomously, as well as robot arms and intelligent watering systems. We’ve successfully exhibited these technologies to the general public at events as the GreenTech trade show in Amsterdam.’
The world’s population is growing fast, and so too is demand for fresh food. Furthermore, there is rising demand for food that has been produced in a more sustainable manner. Grown locally, without pesticides and with as little water as possible. ‘Optimally meeting this demand isn’t straightforward’, admits Katerberg. ‘In 2019, we’re increasing demand for more cultivation surface despite overall floor space remaining the same. There’s also a need for more staff at more affordable rates. The Leaf Carrier presents a suitable solution to both challenges. It’s flexible, efficient and sustainable, and fully automatic if you want it to be.’
Lots of automation solutions are already available to the horticulture market. For instance, when it comes to planting and repotting vegetables and plants. ‘Bever Innovations goes one step further, though’, adds Katerberg. ‘Our mobile cultivation trolleys provide optimum flexibility for horticulturalists. The Leaf Carriers can easily be moved to any spot you’d like in the room, meaning repacking products is no longer necessary. What’s more, the cultivation trolleys are plug-and-play. All you need is a room with power supply.’ Major investments are not required, he says. ‘Horticulturalists simply start out with one Leaf Carrier (15 layers, 14 m² growing space) and can expand their capacity as their business grows. Which is when our automation solutions become interesting for them too.’
Robot for internal transport
Because although moving a cultivation trolley by hand is easy, having dozens or even hundreds of them around the place can present challenges. ‘The Lowpad robot homes in on these optimally’, says Katerberg. ‘The robot has no problems picking up cultivation trolleys and transporting them from A to B. For example, it might take them from the cultivation area to the processing area, where the seedlings can be watered, harvested or inspected. The Lowpad not only frees up people’s hands but also makes it unnecessary for people to enter the cultivation area. Thus minimising contamination and contagion in this area and rendering use of pesticides redundant.
The Lowpad is supplied by partner firm Eurotec. It is easy to operate the robot using a PC-based software tool. Manual or fully automated, with the Lowpad positioning the cultivation trolleys in such a way that they always have power supply.
Efficient robot arm and watering system
What’s more, the Leaf Carriers can (if desired) be connected up to a robot arm from KV Techniek, thereby enabling a variety of actions. Consider in this regard automatic removal, moving or placing of the plant trays in the cultivation trolleys or on a watering robot. ‘In order to enable efficient watering of vegetables and plants, we’ve entered into a partnership with Own Greens’, explains Katerberg. ‘This company has developed an innovative, patented watering system that waters the plants from below. Special sensors weigh the propagators and adjust their watering quantities to the weight, meaning the grower doesn’t have to worry about this. Over the next few months we’ll be developing these and various other concepts further, with the aim being to ensure optimum, sustainable plant cultivation and maximum cultivation surface with minimal (human) effort.’