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Better quality grafts with vision technology:

Automated grafting no longer utopia

Grafting of vegetable seeds can be quite a difficult task that requires a lot of precision and patience. While a lot of propagators still rely on physical human labour for this work, an increasing amount of growers are considering automating the work. Especially now that vision technology has become more common and affordable, automated grafting is again topic of discussion.

Korean manufacturer Helper Robotech develops machinery and solutions to automate the grafting process. The companies overseas marketing director Jeremy Park explained to us that the development of automated grafting machinery has a longstanding history. "We manufacture various horticulture and nursery machinery like Auto Seedling Systems and Grafting Robots. Especially the Grafting Robot is a hot topic of discussion, as many nurseries are interested in automating this labour intensive process."

Park explained that grafting is a very precise task that is not easy to automate. "It requires a very steady and precise hand. Every plant is unique and every single rootstock and scion has its unique shape and bent. It requires a human eye to precisely join the two minuscule parts.  For this reason, nurseries often prefer to use large quantities of women to graft the plants. They have smaller and more precise hands than men. However, with the increasing demand for grafted seedlings, many nurseries struggle to find the right labourers. As well as this grafting can become quite an expensive process with so much human labour involved."

Helper Robotech has developed a grafting machine that uses a vision camera to take a photo of the cut surface of both the scion and rootstock. Special vision software makes an analysis of the bents and provides a servo-motor of the machine with the right information how to joint the two parts. This happens at a high speed, but still a precise graft is achieved with just 1/100mm error rate.  

The new grafting robot can graft both cucurbitaceae and solanaceae and is quickly winning terrain in nurseries across the world, especially in regards to watermelon and tomato crops. "We export our machines to growers located in countries around the Mediterranean sea but also to the Middle East and North America." 

For more information:
Helper Robotech
Mr. Jeremy Park (e-mail)

Publication date: 11/7/2017
Author: Boy de Nijs



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