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The large solar project that provides Sundrop Farms Australia with energy and fresh water is nominated for the Clean Energy Council’s 2018 Innovation Award. The Danish renewable energy specialist, Aalborg CSP, has delivered the energy system to the 200,000 m2 greenhouses of Sundrop Farms in 2017.

The solar energy project is among the top four finalists. The jury sees this pioneering installation in combination with greenhouses in Port Augusta as a leading example of a successful deployment of sustainable energy technologies in Australia.

Clear demonstration project

The Clean Energy Council Awards nominates the pioneering solar energy project in the category 'Innovation Award', because it gives a clear demonstration of what is possible.
This installation with concentrated solar technology (CSP) is the first in Australia and worldwide to support greenhouse horticulture on a commercial scale.
Sundrop Farms produces annually more than 17,000 tons of tomatoes in 200,000 m2 greenhouses located in a remote area. With this yield the company accounts for about 15% of the entire tomato market in Australia.

Multiple energy flows

The unique thing about this project is that the installation with solar energy produces electricity, heat and fresh water. In general, CSP plants at other sites in the world only produce electricity while heat is discharged as waste. An Integrated Energy System has been created at this location with a thermal efficiency of up to 95% that produces multiple energy flows.

Computer-controlled mirrors

The installation consists of more than 23,000 heliostats (computer-controlled mirrors) that bundle the sun's rays in the Australian desert and reflect them towards the top of a 127 meters high solar tower. The concentration of solar energy produces high temperatures that Sundrop Farms then uses to heat the greenhouses in the winter and on cold summer nights, but also to provide fresh water by desalinating seawater drawn from the nearby Spencer Gulf (5 km from the site) and to periodically run a steam turbine to produce electricity.

Source and photo: Aalborg CSP

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The LoRa network, which was rolled out this summer, has been nominated for the Telecom Inspirience Awards’ Rising Star Award. Maasdijkse VTM Group’s LoRa (Long Range Low Power) network allows many types of sensors, including those in the horticulture sector, to be connected to the cloud via the Internet of Things. The region can now accelerate innovation thanks to the use of wireless sensors that can generate large data flows in the horticultural sector.

According to experts, the Internet of Things (IoT), will be the next big thing. The telecom world is responding actively, for example building special networks that link wireless and other sensors to the IoT. The VTM Group founded M2M Services six years ago, with the latter specialising in M2M/IoT solutions. Since this summer, M2M Services has had its own LoRa network in Westland. The launch of LoRa Westland led to M2M Services being a candidate for Telecom Inspirience Awards’ Rising Star Award.

Applications in horticulture

Thanks to LoRa Westland, M2M Services has made the IoT more accessible to business owners in Westland. The advanced developments in greenhouse cultivation in particular have made this region one of the most innovative in the Netherlands. The range of application opportunities are diverse. In horticulture, growers have traditionally measured many variables in their greenhouses; temperature, humidity and CO2, for example. These are many types of sensor, but they are generally wired. LoRa facilitates the use of wireless sensors, which is much more flexible and can lead to major changes in crop optimisation. It also means new sources of revenue for both growers and suppliers.

About the Telecom Inspirience Awards

This objective of the Inspirience Telecom Awards is to distinguish the best cases from the telecom partner channel. In early November, TBMnet.nl and TPM Magazine will announce which cases and business partners have been nominated in the various categories. The award ceremony will take place during a gala in Zalmhuis in Rotterdam.

Update, 17 November 2016:
M2M Services won the Rising Star Award in 2016 for the rollout of LoRa-Westland, its own LoRa network! For more information, please visit the M2M Services website.

Source/Photo: M2M Services.

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Priva won the GreenTech Innovation Award 2016 yesterday at the international trade show in Amsterdam. The company was the winner in the category Equipment as well as the overall winner, beating a total of 73 entries.  With the robot, christened Kompano at the Priva stand, deleafing tomato plants can be done completely automatically and profitably for the first time.

The prize was awarded during the opening of the GreenTech on 14 June by the chairman of the jury, Aalt Dijkhuizen. In the jury’s opinion, the robot is an innovative solution for tomato growers for the difficult work of deleafing. The robot is able to do it entirely independently. In addition, it is an economically appealing alternative. Because it very accurately removes the leaves from tomato plants, viruses do not get a chance to spread.

Development

The development of the robot took at least 15 years. Priva developed the robot in cooperation with a large number of growers, so the product has received ample field testing. The jury views Priva’s innovation as the start of a large series of robots, which will be developed for horticulture in the coming years to efficiently take care of strenuous work. They therefore identified the Priva deleafing robot as heralding the beginning of a new era for international horticulture.

Thanks to the most up-to-date vision technologies, the robot can work day and night. This allows the robot to work, on average, just as fast as a human. The accuracy of deleafing is about 95%. Three growers from the consortium that developed the robot - Lans, Prominent and Vereijken Kwekerijen - will be the first to start working with the robot. From June of 2017 on, the robot will also be available to growers outside the consortium. Pre-orders may be placed online.

Priva will put the robot on the market as a service, so that growers will be able to benefit from the innovation immediately, without incurring high investment costs. With this first generation of the deleafing robot, 0.75 to 1 hectare of tomatoes can be serviced. For larger growing surfaces several robots will be needed, or it can be combined with manual labour.

Two more winners

In addition to Priva, the international jury also awarded two nominations with a category Award. ISO Group won a prize in the category Production and the HortMax-Go! by Ridder HortiMax Group won in the category Automation Solutions. The ISO Plant sampler is able to independently take samples from leaves and collect the DNA material on a microplate. In the jury’s opinion, the ISO Plant sampler offers a great, automated technique that enables work to be carried out fast and with precision.

According to the jury, the HortiMaX-Go! is a modern, user-friendly, affordable climate control and greenhouse irrigation computer. The modular system uses smart switches that can be installed in a plug-and-play manner. The innovation is intended to be entry level, so that growers all over the world will be able to use this technology.

Photo: Mario Bentvelsen.

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Chances are big that the Priva Deleafing Robot will be the winner of the 2016 GreenTech Innovation Award. It is the first robot in the world today to offer an economically viable alternative for the manual removal of leaves in tomato plants.

Crop handling comprises a significant chunk of the labour costs associated with the cultivation of crops such tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet peppers. Robots offer an interesting perspective to reducing these costs and enhancing the manageability and predictability of business operations. In collaboration with a group of Dutch tomato growers, Priva has developed a robot that removes leaves from tomato plants completely independently and in an economically viable manner. It is always difficult to find workers for this labour-intensive and unpleasant task.

Many demonstration projects have been launched in the past few decades. However, none of these have led to economically viable products. This can generally be attributed to the fact that the performance exhibited by robots was never able to stand up to that of human workers in terms of speed and quality. A great deal of attention has been given to practical applicability in the development of this robot. The close involvement of a large group of growers has proven to be essential: only they can properly assess the usefulness of the robot.

Vision technology

The robot must be able to identify plants and leaves, for which cameras and smart calculation technology (vision technology) are deployed. Because no two plants are identical and the lighting conditions under which the robot operates is subject to constant change, state-of-the-art vision technology was developed. When the robot identifies a leaf, it removes it with a cutting module mounted onto its arm. This cutter must be as compact as possible to allow it to easily move through the plants, and additionally designed to effectively withstand contamination and the damaging effects of the acidic juices exuded by the tomato plant.

‘Thanks to the application of vision technology, the robot can quickly and accurately identify the position of the leaves and its speed of operation is currently at an economically viable level,’ confirms Ronald Zeelen, Manager for Innovation & Research at Priva. Of course, the robot can’t work at the same speed of an experienced human, but compensates this by being able to work 24 hours a day.

The second GreenTech Innovation Award for the most innovative product or solution will be presented during the opening of the GreenTech in Amsterdam on 14 June 2016. Category awards will be presented in three categories: production, equipment and automation solutions. One of these three winners will be chosen overall winner.

Click here for a list of all nominees for the 2016 GreenTech Innovation Award.

Photo: Priva.

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Sundrop Farms from Australia was elected most inspirational tomato grower of 2016 during the Tomato Inspiration Event held in Berlin on 4 February. The 100 most innovative tomato growers in the world gathered in Berlin for the third edition of this event. This year it was up to the guests to elect the inspirational winner.

The Tomato Inspiration Award was presented to Philipp Saumweber of Sundrop Farms at the Puro Skybar in Berlin. As there were no specific themes associated with this year’s event, there was no call for the appointment of an international jury. Instead, the participants themselves were invited to cast their votes for the grower who inspires them more than any other.

Previous winners Windset Farms (2014) and Duijvestijn Tomaten (2015) contributed to the event alongside the organisers of the event in the compilation of a long list of the most inspirational producers and product organisations. This resulted in four nominations: APS Salads from Cheshire (UK), the Flandria label of the joint Belgian auctions (LAVA) from Leuven (Belgium), Sundrop Farms from Adelaide (Australia) and Zeiler Gemüsevertrieb from Münchendorf (Austria). Sundrop Farms ultimately won the most votes and was acclaimed the winner.

High-tech in the desert

This year, Sundrop Farms will be opening a state-of-the-art production facility in Port Augusta, in the southern part of Australia. The site will feature four controlled greenhouses (each covering five hectares of land), a desalination system and a field of solar panels that consists of a tower 115 metres high and over 23,000 mirrors to capture the sun’s energy. The new site is unique in the world and will offer employment to some 175 workers and produce over 17,000 tonnes of tomatoes annually. The facility will make use of solar energy, seawater and natural crop protection agents. You can follow the construction of Sundrop Farms from close by on YouTube.

The Tomato Inspiration Event is organised by KAS Tuinbouwcommunicatie and HortiBiz, and sponsored by Bayer, Delphy, Koppert Biological Systems, Oerlemans Plastics, Priva, Saint-Gobain Cultilene and Svensson.

Source: Tomato Inspiration Event. Photo: Sundrop Farms.