Robotics can help horticulture to save time and money

Four hundred thousand seedlings, nearly half of what a plant grower of, say, young tomato plants, produces in one season; this is the amount that sorting machines with the MARVIN technology can process in a single day. They rapidly make 3D models of the plants and accurately evaluate their size and features in milliseconds. “The information can be automatically recorded in a database and used to sort out uniform batches,” Van de Zedde explains. “In addition, the measurements also provide insight into the germination capacity and stability of new varieties.”

Sorting machine
Plant growers can save a lot of time and money with the MARVIN technology. “During peak season, for instance, they won’t have to depend on temporary, often untrained employees,” the senior scientist elucidates. “Carefully sorted batches are much more manageable with regard to cultivation than batches which are unsorted or only marginally sorted. This prevents any loss of quality and brings scale increase within reach.”

Cutting robot
The cutting robot, developed for growers of pot roses by Van de Zedde and his colleagues in partnership with machine manufacturer ISO Group, offers similar benefits. “The machine makes 3D models of a pot rose shoot and determines the best place to make a cutting,” says Van de Zedde. “A robot then cuts and grabs the pot rose cutting and sticks it into the soil.” Cuttings are usually performed by hand – a time-consuming, tedious and repetitive activity.

A third application, the PlantSampler, was developed specifically for plant
breeders and won development partner ISO Group an innovation award at the Greentech exhibition in Amsterdam in June 2016. “The PlantSampler snips a piece of leaf from a seedling which is then placed into a machine by the robot for DNA analysis while the seedling can continue to grow,” Van de Zedde explains. Until now, sampling was performed by hand; a task that requires the utmost concentration as the DNA analysis has to be linked to the right plant with 100% certainty.

Wageningen University & Research and ISO Group also built a 3D data generator for breeders, facilitating the measurement of features to the smallest detail. “This allows parties to sample entire batches of seedlings and evaluate them automatically, which is also known as phenotyping. It gives them all the required data at once.”

The MARVIN technology can be used for a series of applications and flexibly designed match the plant size and features to be measured. The robot application is bespoke. Van de Zedde: “This way both our scientists and the industry can make the most of this fast and accurate evaluation method.”

Source: WUR

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