Labor is a big challenge for anyone in horticulture. Labor expenses make up a particularly large part of operational costs, but that's not all. Labor can also be unpredictable. For a large number of tasks, it’s getting harder to find a motivated workforce to carry them out.
Priva wants to help find innovative solutions to their clients’ biggest challenges. They saw the potential in robotics to solve labor issues growers face. Robotics has the potential to increase the continuity and predictability of daily operations while keeping costs at an equal or even lower level. But until now, not a single market party had succeeded in developing an economically viable alternative for crop labor activities. In most cases, the speed and quality of the activities couldn't compete with the performance of manual labor.
It took cooperation, patience, perseverance and a lot of courage to build the unique Kompano Robot. The intensive involvement of a large number of growers proved to be essential to success, because only the growers could truly assess the practical applicability of the robot.
It will become increasingly difficult to find people who want to work in the greenhouses.
Frans van Nieuwkerk
Tomato grower Gebr. M. & F. van Nieuwkerk - chairman Project Committee
First-generation: deleafing tomatoes
From working with growers, Priva knew they wanted to build an economically viable platform. The combination of relatively low hourly rates and robot-unfriendly conditions were a challenge, though.
During development, the biggest technical challenges were to:
- Find/remove as much of the leaf as possible with minimal residual work
- Cut the leaf neatly with minimal risk of disease, such as Botrytis
- Remove the leaf quickly enough to be cost-effective
The outcome is the first generation of Priva Kompano robots. The Kompano Robot focuses fully on the deleafing of tomatoes. Each robot can cover 0.75 to 1 hectare, depending on stem density. In larger areas, growers have the choice to either work with multiple robots, or to combine automated and manual crop labor.
The close cooperation between all parties in the consortium made the Kompano Robot what it is today: an economically viable alternative for manual deleafing, with increased controllability and predictability of labor.
Kompano Robot vs. human workforce
The way the deleafing robot maintains daily operations is in fact quite similar to that of the human workforce. Automated deleafing is offered as a service, enabling growers to profit from the advantages of the product instantly, without a long payback period.
Video: meet the Kompano Robot
The future of working with the Kompano Robot
The Priva Kompano Deleaf-Line for tomatoes was introduced at GreenTech 2016. Members of the consortium have invested a lot of time in the development and optimisation of the Kompano Robot, so they have been given the first opportunity to start working with it. Depending on the number of robots that are ordered by the consortium, it could become available for a broader audience soon.
Deleafing tomatoes is just the beginning. This first generation of automated crop labor will lead to more automated solutions for different crops and tasks, for example, harvesting cucumbers.