Van der Burg bell pepper nursery in Est recently commissioned the 'Pepper Shuttle Harvesting System’ of Berg Hortimotive. This system allows the efficient harvesting of bell peppers at a height - with a minimum risk of damage - and subsequently their unmanned transport to the sorting area. The idea of doing this by combining a shuttle with a scissor lift trolley comes from owner Johan van der Burg and Berg Hortimotive. BHM translated it pragmatically into an ergonomic, robust and practical solution.
Van der Burg bell pepper nursery is located in rural Est near Geldermalsen. The sustainable nursery is committed to a high-quality product and therefore makes every effort to deliver fruit in perfect condition. In order to get bell peppers into the harvest container intact, in the past use was made of so-called ‘picking chutes’.
Working at height
When Johan van der Burg decided to expand, it called upon his innovative capacity. The new greenhouse was higher and picking chutes would pose too great risk of damage. Johan van der Burg: "It might be possible to use an AGV scissor lift trolley. This allows you to take the container up with you and then let it drive automatically filled with peppers to the sorting area. However, these trolleys are quite expensive and besides, when they drive to the sorting area, you cannot use them for harvesting. And to purchase every AGV scissor lift trolley in duplicate is simply not a financial option."
Best of both worlds
Whether it was fate or pure luck when Johan van der Burg opposed his request to Royal Brinkman and Berg Hortimotive, he found that these companies were already working on an appropriate solution. What was missing, however, was a party where the solution could be tested in practice. A partnership was soon clinched and the engineers of Berg Hortimotive, with the same drive for quality as Johan van der Burg, got to work.
The specialists in smart logistics solutions for growers soon came up with the Pepper Shuttle Harvesting System. In this solution, the harvest container is on a shuttle which, together with other shuttles, is easily transported by an electric tractor. This shuttle is driven over the scissor lift trolley. Here, the scissor lift trolley is in its lowest position and at that moment, it still offers plenty of room for the employee.
The scissor lift trolley, including shuttle and container, can now drive into the path on the pipe rail system. When the worker has to harvest at a height, the container will automatically move along upwards with the platform, while the shuttle itself remains below on the scissor lift trolley undercarriage. Hans Fakkert, commercial technical specialist at Berg Hortimotive: "This is a safe solution because the centre of gravity of the setup stays close to the ground. Also when a container is filled with bell peppers at a height."
When the container is full, the scissor lift trolley moves downwards and drives out of the path again. Here it descends to the lowest position, delivers the container onto the shuttle and can then, with an empty container and shuttle, again drive into the path for harvesting work. The shuttle with the full container is attached to other shuttles, and to a BeTrac induction electric tractor and drives automatically over an induction route to the sorting area.
Johan van der Burg: "It is good to see how this fine partnership has led to this solution. As soon as we started harvesting, the Pepper Shuttle Harvesting System was ready in Est. My staff quickly learned how they could easily work with the shuttles and the empty and full containers. Much respect. As if they are crates of a few kilogrammes."
Meanwhile, the shuttles are also being used by other companies and Berg Hortimotive is further developing the concept into a fully automated solution with AGVs. This can also be used for routes that are more complex.