Contribution of innovative technologies to new developments in horticulture

Pekkeriet, Erik; Henten, E.J. Van; Campen, J.B.


<p>This paper reviews new developments in high-tech greenhouse horticulture. It will focus on sensors, energy solutions, covering materials, production technology and robotics. Driving forces for new technologies are identified and Dutch greenhouse crop production is used as an example. Sensors are introduced in horticulture using the latest techniques from medical and industrial research. A 3D volumetric intersection technique is used to sort tomato seedlings at a speed of 40.000 pieces per hour and measures the full 3D geometric features, which is clearly an impossible challenge when done manually. Other 3D techniques like stereo vision, time of flight and laser triangulation are introduced in greenhouse horticulture to control robots, measure the geometric quality features as flower diameter and bulb orientation or to separate target features from its agricultural surroundings (e.g., Anthurium, chicory, lily bulbs). But also the interest to measure internal quality features as ripeness, food compounds, internal defects and the ability of photosynthesis capacity can be measured by spectral cameras, fluorescence techniques and X-ray. First applications in research and production are being introduced (e.g., rose, Alstroemeria, tulip, tomato or cucumber). To apply integrated management on pests and diseases in the greenhouse, sensors are needed to determine pests and diseases and its magnitude automatically at an early stage (e.g., long horn beetle, botrytis, sticky plates). More future sensor applications are expected in this field. New developments in energy solutions in greenhouses will lead to more profitable options in crop production. Energy saving in horticulture has been the subject of research for more than 20 years in a special program "greenhouse as energy source" financed by the Dutch ministry of agriculture and growers. The result is that Horticultural industry in The Netherlands consumes now 50% less energy compared to 1990 due to all energy saving measures. Various technologies developed are now common practice in greenhouses like the application of thermal screens and temperature integration. More recent developments in humidity control have been adopted further decreasing energy consumption and thereby even increasing production quality and quantity. Alternative energy sources like geothermal heat are being used by some growers allowing fossil-fuel free vegetable production. More futuristic concepts where electricity and heat are produced in combination with greenhouse production are still in the experimental phase. When all new developments lead to products with excellent quality in the right amount, price and ready just in time, products need to be harvested with a predictable capacity and reliability. Progress is made on robotic harvesting of fruits, flowers and vegetables. First robots that are tested in practice on a 24/7 base (cutrose, strawberry, kiwi) have shown to be very close to market introduction. Progress is made and big efforts by several consortia are put in actual developments to harvest tomato leaves, cucumbers and sweet peppers. Self-learning algorithms, open source robotic software and generic mechatronic solutions are available and adaptive to new tasks and products and will enable fast future robot solutions after first successful introductions.</p>