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Automatic release of beneficial insects now also for vertically grown crops

In the strawberry cultivation industry, machines that automatically distribute beneficial insects into the crops have been operational for two years. The Entomatic, a machine developed through a collaboration between Biobest and Hortiworld, has now also been adapted for vertically grown crops. The Entomatic RD, which stands for row dispenser, was showcased for the first time at the recent HortiContact event.

With the Entomatic RD, growers using rack cultivation systems can now also utilize the Entomatic. More importantly, it can also be used for high-wire crops such as peppers and tomatoes, as well as to blackberry and raspberry cultivation. In the pepper cultivation sector, a Dutch grower tested the adapted Entomatic in 2023.

Soft landing
"The tests went very well," says Rembrandt van Meegen. He develops agricultural and horticultural machinery with Hortiworld. "We specifically chose pepper cultivation because it has the most challenging leaves. The leaves are smooth. Yet, we succeeded in automatically distributing beneficial insects without them falling off the leaves."

They selected a system that ensures a soft landing. This is achieved by using a component that slows down the airflow. "Think of it as a parachute landing."

The Entomatic RD can have up to four distribution points. Is this to be used when a high-wire crop gets really tall? "Yes, but in practice, it's not necessary. During the distribution of the biologicals, the product drifts down well, as we've observed in tests."

With the Entomatic, growers can distribute mites, pupae, eggs, and larvae. The reservoir can carry different products. A mixing system ensures a continuous and homogeneous supply to the distribution points. Biobest also conducted tests with the version for vertical crops. "The mortality is top-notch, with a capital T."

Applied to more crops
As the tests were successful, sales started in 2023. The first versions for practical cultivation, were already sold by the end of 2023. By the end of April, the Entomatic RD will be in operation at a Dutch pepper grower, a tomato grower, and Royal Berry.

Royal Berry operates three machines in their Mini-Air strawberry system, where the version for vertical crops fits perfectly due to the standing gutters. "Compared to the Entomatic MD, the Entomatic RD is much more compact, allowing the machine to navigate easily through the crops."

Connecting the Entomatic RD
Currently, Hortiworld is preparing shipments for growers in among others the USA, Canada, and Australia. The Entomatic RD can be mounted on any spray cart available, Rembrandt assures us. "We use the on-off signal of that cart, which also activates the Entomatic."

It can even be used on a pipe rail trolley. "That's the way it operates at the cucumber grower who's already using it. We supply the cable, battery, and plug and connect the Entomatic to the spray cart or pipe rail trolley. As we supply to more growers, we'll develop connection kits for anywhere."

The system's strengths include the uniform distribution of the biologicals and labor savings. "From a grower's employee who distributes the biologicals, I understand that he 'didn't find it interesting anymore'. That's exactly what you want to hear," Rembrandt says. "He now operates the Entomatic on the spray cart, moving back and forth through the crops. It saves a lot of labor."

The Entomatic will be on display at Biobest's stand during GreenTech Amsterdam. Rembrandt will also be present on behalf of Hortiworld.

For more information:
Rembrandt van Meegen
[email protected]

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