CURRENT DEVELOPMENTS OF HIGH-TECH ROBOTIC AND MECHATRONIC SYSTEMS IN HORTICULTURE AND CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE

E.J. Pekkeriet, E.J. van Henten
This paper reviews the current developments of high-tech robotic and mechatronic systems in horticulture and future perspectives. Driving forces for mechanization are identified. Dutch greenhouse crop production is used as an example. In greenhouse horticulture the production steps and control that needs to be done in the growing area of high value crops and flowers are still often done manually. Growers are investing a lot of labour in processes like crop sensing, crop maintenance and harvesting the products. To harvest these high value products, a lot of human intelligence is required, such as precise, effective and efficient eye-hand coordination in a complex environment, decisions concerning quality and ripeness and careful handling and buffering of variably shaped vulnerable products. Within the next years the first generation of machines will be introduced in greenhouse horticulture using principles of mechatronics and robotics, combining smart mechanical design with sensors and ‘artificial intelligence’ needed for these difficult tasks. Examples are the current commercial robot developments for cutting roses, harvesting strawberries and cucumber. But jumping from fully manual production to fully robotised production is a complex challenge and probably not always and not yet the way to go. As an intermediate step, also technology is needed to support current human labour for instance to harvest more precise, targeting on specific quality as a post-harvest feedback and to buffer the high value products carefully and automatically and it is even possible to support human labour by pointing out the ripe products that need to be harvested. Ambient intelligence is more and more becoming a part of the working environment. Here the idea is presented that new ICT developments in gaming can stimulate labour in greenhouse horticulture to do the work better and faster with a lot more fun when there is the challenge to reach new skills, features and levels supported in a gaming environment. Finally, progress in the field of greenhouse robotic and mechatronic systems does not only rely on innovations in the field of robot and mechatronic systems but also on necessary innovations in the field of growing systems and plant breeding to reduce variability and thus to simplify the task for men and machinery.
Pekkeriet, E.J. and van Henten, E.J. (2011). CURRENT DEVELOPMENTS OF HIGH-TECH ROBOTIC AND MECHATRONIC SYSTEMS IN HORTICULTURE AND CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE. Acta Hortic. 893, 85-94
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2011.893.4
https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2011.893.4
automation, gaming, greenhouse, ornamentals, mechanization, robotics, vegetables
English

Acta Horticulturae