Evaluating the quality of fresh produce is still a job mainly done by hand. Gearbox Innovations developed a grading robot that combines vision technology with Artificial Intelligence to evaluate the quality of up to 100% of passing fruit and vegetables. To bring the innovation to market, Gearbox receives an investment of € 300,000 of the regional investment fund Uniiq. The news of the investment was announced by alderman Karin Zwinkels of the Municipality of Westland, during the Horti Heroes Master Track ‘How to Finance Innovation’ in the World Horti Center in Naaldwijk, the Netherlands.
Numerous inspections between field and fork
Every year in the Netherlands, around 5,400 million kg of vegetables and 650 million kg of fruit is produced. Before a particular vegetable or piece of fruit reaches its final point of sale, it’s been through various sets of hands to guarantee its quality and to sort it into the right quality class. The vegetable is scrutinized manually on deviations in color and shape, and blemishes or damages. All because the standards and norms as set by supermarkets and other retailers are unrelenting and high. Inspection of the produce to guarantee its quality is vital, but the current manual inspections are prone to error and demand a capacity in personnel that is becoming increasingly hard to meet in a sector where staff turnover rates are high.
Photography: © Daniel Verkijk
Gearbox’ solution: an AI-driven grading robot
Gearbox Innovations saw the added value for the different elements of the value chain if both quality control and grading were to become more reliable, more consistent, and faster. The company developed the GearVision Inspector, a stand-alone smart grading robot that is able to deliver a thorough quality analysis, and the GearVision Sorter, an in-line solution to optimally sort the produce according to its quality. The two machines combine vision technology with artificial intelligence to be able to quickly but accurately grade and consequently sort fresh fruit and vegetables. This provides the complete supply chain, from the breeder to the packaging company, with a future-proof approach to quality control that is tailored to their specific needs and requirements. A thorough report provides actionable insights on how to increase the produce’s quality. With the digitization of the grading process, a transition towards fully automated sorting and packaging of fruit and vegetables lies within reach.
Gearbox Innovation will use the Uniiq investment to further develop the GearVision, unlocking more product varieties and applications, and to expand their activities to foreign markets. Simone Keijzer, together with Johan Kreeft founder of Gearbox Innovations, is very pleased with the investment by Uniiq: “The GearVision allows the sector to increase both the coverage ratio and the consistency of their grading processes, while taking into account their specific wishes and ‘product recipes’. Our actionable reports create insight in growth- and harvesting data, allowing the grower to actively steer towards a higher qualitative output, and ultimately better yields. With the Uniiq investment we can expand the GearVision’s crop-and-product portfolio, and roll out the innovation internationally.”
Liduina Hammer, Uniiq fund manager: “Gearbox’ intelligent automation solution represents an important step for the entire horticultural value chain. We are very pleased that with our investment, Gearbox can help individual companies in the supply- and value chain optimize their performance. Zooming out, the automation of the grading process of fruit and vegetables fits with the developments and trends we see in the sector as a whole.”