December 11, 2012

Willoway Nurseries Tests Robots

Willoway Nurseries is one of a small number of growers testing robots from Harvest Automation as a more efficient and cost-effective method of moving plants in the greenhouse and nursery yard. We asked Willoway’s Tom Demaline for an update on the testing process. GG: How are the robots working? Demaline: It has been good. We worked with Harvest Automation on the alpha and beta testing and working out the kinks with that. We trialed the first production models in October. We ran them about 6 weeks, focusing on consolidating plants for winter. We’re still in the learning curve on how to use the technology. Did the robots physically pick up a plant and move it? Yes. But in these trials they didn’t seem to like to consolidate the plants as much as they like to space them. We just have to learn how to make them more efficient. We’re really […]

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December 10, 2012

Tips On Automating Simple Greenhouse Tasks

Anything that has an on/off switch or some sort of electro-mechanical action can be automated. Wander off to your local hardware store, pick up some mechanical timers, and you can automate a simple system in an afternoon. Automation is valuable because it saves time, and builds consistent, predictable cycles that promote quality growing. These days, both simple and sophisticated greenhouse automation is available to almost any grower with nearly any type of crop or budget. The cost of electronics has dropped steeply over the past decade. At the same time, software has become more powerful and sensors are vastly more sensitive. The challenge becomes picking out the right solution from a wide range of sometimes complementary and conflicting solutions. Dedicated Versus Integrated Let’s start with types of automation controls. Generally speaking, they fall into two kinds of controls. Dedicated controls manage only one system. A water timer on a hose […]

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December 3, 2012

Robotics Research At Vineland Focuses On Greenhouse Planting, Harvesting And Packaging

The Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Ontario is working on three projects to develop automation robotics for the greenhouse production process. Vineland is reaching outside the industry for input on these projects, partnering with engineers in the automotive industry to gain insights into cutting-edge automation. Vineland’s Project Manager for Robotics John Van de Vegte is leading the three automation projects, which focus on reducing costs and improving quality in planting, harvesting and packaging. “We’re all challenged with the increasing cost of labor and fuel,” says Van de Vegte. “In order to be competitive, we have to find ways to innovate in that area. The program I’m running is tying automation into the horticulture industry.” Planting, Harvesting And Packaging Project One: Planting automation. Consolidating the separate tasks and requirements of seedling plug and tulip bulb replanting in one system, this machine will handle seedling plugs of multiple sizes, from small […]

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November 1, 2012

Pot-Moving Automation From Harvest Automation Tested At Metrolina

Metrolina Greenhouses is trialing robots from Harvest Automation for plant handling for indoor and outdoor production. Scroll down for video of the testing. Four units of the pot-moving robots are being tested by Metrolina, which is considering using them to consolidate and space remaining pots after shipments go out. The robots can also be used to respace in a tight configuration for collection, says Harvest Automation CEO Charlie Grinnell. Grinnell came from iRobot, the original innovators behind the vacuum robot Roomba, and are now taking up automation in horticulture. Harvest Automation has been testing the pot-moving robots for the last 18 months, working toward perfecting a model in which several smaller machines work together in teams. This way, small operations can buy just a few of the robots, while larger ones can buy more to serve a larger production area.  “We thought it would be a much better idea to […]

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July 2, 2012

Argentine Greenhouse Robot Is A Low-Cost Alternative To GPS

A little Argentinian ingenuity has led to a prototype for a robot that applies pesticides in the greenhouse. Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology has created Trakür, and what makes it different from other greenhouse robots is its low cost. According to an article from SmartPlanet.com, the robot doesn’t use GPS to move around production area. Instead, it uses an embedded sensor system, which keeps the cost of Trakür at less than a third of other technologies. Trakür should be licensed for commercial production by early 2013. To read more about Trakür, click here for the SmartPlanet.com article or scroll down to see the robot in action.

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