Finally the deleafing robot is here

A machine where almost every tomato grower has been dreaming of is about to become available; by the end of this year the first deleafing robots will enter a few Dutch greenhouses, and in 2017 it should come commercially available.

The introduction of this new robot is the result of 15 years research and development by Priva and collaborating greenhouse growers. The development of the Tomation robot took so long due to the irregular positioning and monotone colors of the tomato leaves.

"When we started with the project 15 years ago, there was not that many so-called vision technology available yet", explained Ronald Zeelen from Priva. "This technology was a crucial factor in the development of the machine. It allows the robot to make a very fast analysis of the crops and the position of the leafs he has to pick. And that speed of the robot was a crucial factor; it had to work fast and efficient in order to make it economically viable to use a robot."

At this moment, the robot is not as fast as an experienced crop worker, but this is being compensated by the fact that it can work 24/7.

Another important step in the development of the deleafing robot was a proper cutting movement of the knife.

"Just like with manual labor, each leaf had to be cut very exactly onto the stem, in order to prevent infections and botrytis." This accuracy of the robot has resulted in a machine that can take away 90% of the leafs in a path; still a human is needed to perform a final check.

The machine is completely developed with the help of commercial greenhouse growers; Priva listened to them and took their feedback very seriously. By doing so they have created a first working version that will be used in two or three Dutch nurseries this fall.

After the introduction this fall, the machine is scheduled to become commercially available on the domestic and international market in 2017.

For more information:
Ronald Zeelen

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