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GreenTech Innovation Award

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Four companies were the recipients of a GreenTech Innovation Award, conferred last Tuesday after the opening of the trade fair in the RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre. But what is so special about their innovative products or services? We spoke with Ruud Schulte of Van der Ende Groep, winner of the Sustainability Award, and Rob Schoones of Impact Award winner Priva.

As the manager of the water treatment division, Ruud Schulte was responsible for developing the Poseidon Sodium Extractor: a BZG-certified machine that not only removes crop protection agents from drain water, but also uses membrane technology to extract sodium from it. ‘As a result, you will only need to discharge 20% of the water you would normally have to drain off. Apart from this, you can retain 50% of your nutrients, which would otherwise simply disappear into the sewer.’

Sustainable water management

The Poseidon is an exceptionally effective solution for sustainable water management and will help you save water as well as fertilizers, while ensuring that you satisfy your water purification obligation. ‘Another advantage is that this will help you keep the sodium level in your drain silo constant throughout the year. Most horticulturists will start giving their plants more water once the sodium level in the drain water becomes too high, and will keep this up until it becomes low enough. This results in fluctuations in the root environment and inhibits plant growth.’
Eight machines are currently in use for various types of crops. The users are unanimously enthusiastic – also because of the higher crop yield per square metre thanks to the Poseidon, says Schulte. ‘The machine was explicitly developed for the Dutch market, but we have noticed a great deal of interest from other countries. Too high sodium levels just as much of a problem in other countries, too! Also, farmers growing crops in arid conditions will be able to reuse water much longer thanks to the Poseidon.’

Priva Academy

Rob Schoones is the team leader of the Priva Academy, recipient of the Impact Award. ‘The Priva Academy is a learning environment developed for the Priva organisation worldwide. At present, we are also using this environment to train our partners in the fields of Vertical Farming/Indoor Growing as well as Building Automation and Horticulture. With regard to Horticulture, we are currently using the Priva Academy training the end users, the growers, too. We do this free of charge and for all growers, even those that do not use a Priva computer. Our training covers topics like climate, irrigation, energy management and labour and cultivation registration, and starts at domain level. For instance: how do you create a climate and what does it involve specifically? And how can you respond to this with Priva equipment? Of course, growers with a different system can also translate what they learn to their own equipment.

Virtual learning

Schoones emphasises that the Priva Academy provides e-learning courses. ‘We ask questions to help you learn, and you can keep track of your progress online where you will also find your marks after completing the course. Each course has its own discussion board. When you ask a question it will automatically be forwarded to us, as well as the course instructor. We will then make sure you get an answer as soon as possible. Other students can also respond to this question, just like in a classroom. This is virtual learning with a personal touch.’
Priva Academy is currently training 1,400 students in 32 countries. The courses are available in four languages (Dutch, German, English and French), explains Schoones – with a hint of pride resounding in his voice. ‘We will soon be adding Spanish. All of these languages are currently available in our courses for the buildings market, and we are still in the process of making them available for the horticulture sector. It is still work in progress: we have currently digitised approximately 20 to 30% of our knowledge and put this online. Our primary focus is on making new content, which is first published in English as this reaches a worldwide audience.’

Collaboration with schools

What’s new is that schools can now also make use of the Priva Academy online training courses, free of charge. ‘Of course, there are conditions associated with this, about which we make agreements beforehand. Permission to use the Priva Academy to train groups is subject to certain agreements. Additionally, our content cannot be used for commercial purposes. We also make agreements about mutual promotion. We let our growers know which schools use the Priva Academy so that they can contact a school in the Netherlands or abroad when they are looking for a work placement student. We also promote schools that offer supplementary courses for businesses and, in doing so, aim to come full circle. The idea is to bring students more closely in contact with the horticulture community and, while doing so, bridge the gap between training and practice. When we launch a new product, the course will already be available in the Academy.’

Be sure to read our interviews with the other winners.

Author and photos: Mario Bentvelsen.

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Four companies were the recipients of a GreenTech Innovation Award, conferred last Tuesday after the opening of the trade fair in the RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre. But what is so special about their innovative products and services? Read on for a brief interview with Richard Groenewegen of Visser Horti Systems, overall winner of the GreenTech Innovation Award, and Theo Straathof, Managing Director of Micothon, co-winner in the Concept Award category.

Sales Engineer Richard Groenewegen is in charge of designing machines at Visser Horti Systems, winner of the GreenTech Innovation Award. Visser makes filling, planting, pricking out and sowing machines for the young plant industry. ‘We developed a machine together with our customers that automatically transplants cuttings in a pot or tray. The cuttings are sticked using a sort of cartridge: the AutoStix strip, for which we have developed two types of strips: a small one for 51 cuttings and a larger one for 34 cuttings. This system is suitable for 90% of all cuttings – whether from potted plants or cut flowers.’

Sticking cuttings more intelligently

The strips are fed into the machine manually, after which a gripper automatically cuts off a piece of the strip, and transplants the cutting into a pot or tray in the AutoStix. This machine does this much faster than a human being can, who can plant 1,000 cuttings in an hour, explains Groenewegen. ‘Equipped with six grippers, our machine can process 10,000 cuttings per hour – and does this much more accurately, too. As a result, each cutting is planted in exactly the same manner. This leads to better quality and uniformity in the greenhouse.’
Cuttings from the mother stock can be sticked and will take root directly in the biologically degradable strips. This leads to additional savings and shortens the overall cultivation process. ‘Cuttings often take four to six weeks to root. This step can now be skipped. Rooting stations will no longer be necessary,’ says Groenewegen.

Autonomous scouting robot

Theo Straathof is the proud managing director of Micothon. Micothon was conferred a joint GreenTech Concept Award together with Metazet-FormFlex and Ecoation for their IRIS! scout robot. The robot can detect pests and diseases in the greenhouse before they are visible to the naked eye, explains Straathof. ‘What’s revolutionary about the entire thing is the green cabinet with sensors and lamps that radiate laser light. Due to the way in which light is reflected, the robot can see if a plant is affected by a disease or a deficiency in a specific nutrient. The robot – which can scout 1.5 hectares in 12 hours – stores this information and subsequently relays it to Ecoation every day, where the data is analysed. The user will then get a map of his greenhouse within a few hours that shows exactly where every deviation was discovered. This replaces manual scouting.’

Self-learning function

The scout robot has a self-learning function that can also be used to collect other data – such as temperature, humidity and CO2. Not only that, it can be equipped with a sensor that registers information like how dirty the greenhouse roof is. Having this data available makes it easier to take targeted action and saves labour, continues Straathof. ‘Scouting requires trained individuals, of which there is a distinct lack – particularly abroad. The robot can also be used to spray specific sections of the greenhouse, or to set out natural enemies. You will , however, need a qualified employee for this.’
The robot was made fully autonomous – this was a requirement – and virtually unbreakable in collaboration with Metazet-FormFlex. The scanner and data processing system were developed by the Canadian firm of Ecoation. The robot is currently still in its prototype stage and will be tested at several horticultural firms after GreenTech. Straathof expects the robot to be launched on the market sometime in 2019.

Be sure to read our interviews with the other winners.

Author and photos: Mario Bentvelsen.

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A jury chaired by Jan Willem Breukink, former CEO of the Incotec Group, selected 22 nominees for the GreenTech Innovation Awards from all trade fair entries. There are four prizes to win in as many categories. The awards will be presented on the opening day of the GreenTech trade fair (12 to 14 June) in Amsterdam.

Nominees in the category GreenTech Innovation Award 2018:

• AutoStix - Visser Horti Systems
• Gridmap Technology - Berg Hortimotive
• ISO Robot Plug Planting Machine - ISO Group
• Pointed Micro Climate sensor - 30MHZ
• Poseidon - Van der Ende Group
• Priva Compass - Priva Horticulture B.V.
• Service Engine - Royal Brinkman

Nominees in the category GreenTech Sustainability Award 2018:

• Biological control or Tuta absoluta in tomato - Biobest Group N.V.
• HORTINERGY - Energy analysis for greenhouse - HORTINERGY
• Poseidon - Van der Ende Group
• Priva Moisture Balance Module - Priva Horticulture B.V.
• SmartPAR Light Sensor - Lumigrow Inc

Nominees in the GreenTech Impact Award 2018 category:

• AutoStix - Visser Horti Systems
• Biological control or Tuta absoluta in tomato - Biobest Group N.V.
• ISO Robot Plug Planting Machine - ISO Group
• Priva Academy - Priva Horticulture B.V.

Nominees in the category GreenTech Concept Award 2018:

• Plantalyzer - Berg Hortimotive
• Pull wire installation robot - Van der Valk Horti Systems
• Ridder CO2 Optimizer - Ridder HortimaX Group
• Scout robot - Metazet-FormFlex

For more information about the nominations, visit the GreenTech website.

Source/photo: GreenTech.

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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.


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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A shortlist of nominees, all but two of them Dutch, has been announced for the GreenTech Innovation Award 2016. An international jury has selected a shortlist of 15 nominees from 73 entries in three categories: Production, Equipment and Automation Solutions. One of these three winners will be chosen as the overall winner on June 14, during the opening event of GreenTech Amsterdam.

“As jury, we are very pleased with both number and quality of the applications for the GreenTech Innovation Award 2016. It shows the high level of innovation in the greenhouse horticulture sector”, said jury chairman Aalt Dijkhuizen, former president of Wageningen UR and appointed by the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs as figurehead of the Topsector Agri & Food in the Netherlands.

Shortlisted in the Production category are:

  • RootmaXX by Saint-Gobain Cultilene - a new stone wool cube which claims to give a 5-25 per cent higher root mass thanks to a newly patented fibre.
  • ISO Cutting and Planting robot 1800 by ISO Group - which automatically analyses the geometry of a stem, cut the stem to the right length and plants it in a pot.
  • ISO Plantsampler by ISO Group - which automates the gathering of DNA material from the leaves of trial seedlings.
  • GrowCoon by Maan BioBased Products - a biodegradable plug casing which help keeps the root ball together.
  • Biospreader by Royal Brinkman - which provides a uniform distribution of predatory mites in the crop.

Shortlisted in the Equipment category are:

  • 2SaveEnergy covering by 2SaveEnergy - a twin-skinned glasshouse covering claimed to combine high insulation and light transmission with an affordable.
  • Triton Bioreactor by Van der Ende Groep - a biological treatment which yields clean irrigation water rich in oxygen and microbial biodiversity.
  • AntiReflect by Mardenkro - a glass treatment which can be applied to existing greenhouses.
  • NUF water recycling by NUFiltration (Israel) - which enables purification of irrigation water without use of chemicals, thermal or biological treatments.
  • ValkScreenVision by Van der Valk Horti Systems - a quick, clean and safe system for inserting glasshous screens.
  • Priva Deleafing Robot by Priva - a robot which removes leaves from tomato plants completely independently and in an economically profitable manner.

Shortlisted in the Automation Solutions category:

(with one remaining undisclosed)

  • Paskal Growth Analyser by Paskal Technologies (Israel) - a wireless weighing system to continuously monitor plant growth in the glasshouse.
  • C.H.I.M.P (Crop Health & Information Monitoring Platform) by Phenokey - which measures control and plant health parameters for remote monitroing and decision support.
  • HortiMaX-Go! by Ridder Hortimax Group - a user-friendly and affordable horticultural computer for controlling both greenhouse climate and irrigation.

All nominated products will be on display at GreenTech's InnovationLAB.

Source: GreenTech. Photo: Mario Bentvelsen.