Harvesting white asparagus depends closely on guide labour, an price that spots a financial strain on farmers. To address this, an EU-funded task has formulated an automatic harvesting resource that selectively picks only ripe asparagus and doesn’t destruction the crop. This will save farmers cash, improves crop high quality and gets rid of the have to have for again-breaking work.


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© Cerescon 2020

Selective harvesting involves choosing areas of the crop that are ripe, devoid of harming areas of the crop that have to have to be harvested at a later on time or left in the soil. At the second, this procedure is only carried out by hand. Common examples of selectively harvested crops contain tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, melons, blueberries and raspberries.

“This is also the scenario for white asparagus,” suggests SPARTerS task coordinator Thérèse van Vinken of Cerescon in the Netherlands. “The European current market is now truly worth about EUR 800 million a year, but sadly the total business is under threat. This is partly due to the fact the amount of hand pickers is declining year by year, even though the value of guide labour continues to rise.”

There are other issues linked with hand choosing. Asparagus spears can sometimes go undetected and be left sticking out of the sand mattress for the next harvesting session. This can lead to discolouration and the asparagus establishing open up heads.

Automated harvesting remedy

To address these challenges, the EU-funded SPARTerS task has concentrated on bringing to current market a mechanised selective harvesting machine. The vital intention of this innovation is to reduced asparagus harvesting prices, as perfectly as increasing the high quality and amount of the crop.

“The remedy is primarily based on a patented underground detection process,” describes van Vinken. “Sensors detect the asparagus as it grows underground, devoid of coming into make contact with with it. This usually means that the crop remains undamaged.”

At this position, data on the asparagus is transmitted to a patented self-propelled harvesting robotic. The robotic picks only the asparagus that is ready to be picked in a single solitary motion, placing it on a conveyor. The gap left at the rear of in the sand mattress is then fixed, to avert the next crop from increasing curved.

Trials have demonstrated that employing the Sparter machine can cut the charge of harvesting by half, in aspect from savings on labour prices but also due to the fact the crop is not weakened and there is tiny wastage.

“All kinds of data can be gathered from the underground sensors,” adds van Vinken. “This can assist be certain that crop yields are a lot more predictable.” For case in point, farmers can be produced informed of the have to have for fertilisation or irrigation at a sure time, or in a sure space of the industry.

Asparagus growers have been instrumental in the improvement of Sparter from the beginning. “We formed a UserGroup, produced up of growers in the Netherlands and Germany,” describes van Vinken. “These farmers offered extensive responses on the improvement of this technological innovation and have also been important in offering us with facts on their distinct prerequisites, facilities and choosing prices.”

Foreseeable future of farming

Van Vinken believes that the Sparter innovation represents the long run of asparagus farming, specifically in gentle of the coronavirus epidemic. Growers, closely dependent on guide labour to are inclined their asparagus beds, were being left in crisis right after borders were being closed.

“Selective harvesting in western Europe is generally carried out by short term staff who arrive from overseas,” describes van Vinken. “As numerous of these staff were being not able to travel, farmers were being not able to are inclined their crops. In some situations, concerning 70 and eighty % of asparagus beds were being left unharvested.”

A different position is that guide white asparagus harvesting is significant, actual physical and demanding work. Transitioning to automatic selective harvesting promises to produce a lot more competent and greater certified careers that aim on machine operation and sorting.
In spite of the challenges the sector faces, Europe however represents just about a single 3rd of the world’s asparagus current market. Van Vinken is assured that this remains a profitable current market that can be developed upon and improved with the software of technological innovation.
Indeed, SPARTerS is certainly foremost the way – thanks to the good results of the EU-funded task, the task team have also just lately received an supplemental EUR 3 million from non-public resources to carry on their work.