Wageningen UR Glastuinbouw coordinates international robotics project

The European Union is making 10 million Euros available for research on robots in the agricultural sector. Wageningen UR Glastuinbouw, Holland, is going to coordinate this project, with scientific institutes and business communities from 10 different participating countries. The Dutch input concerns the development of a harvesting robot for bell peppers.

The project has received the name CROPS and will focus on the development of intelligent systems that can be used during the production and harvest of high grade crops.

“Robots can contribute to a sustainable development of the agri- and horticulture,” says researcher and coordinator of this project, Jan Bontsema. “For example, improving the working conditions or raising the quality of the harvested product.”

CROPS is focusing on developing a new technique for sensors, robot arms, grabbers and intelligence, that can be used in various situations.

“We will develop fundamental knowledge as well as practical applications. Therefore, in Holland we will collaborate with Jentjens Machinetechniek. Together, we will develop a bell pepper harvesting machine,” said Bontsema.

“Abroad, various partners will work on an apple picking robot, a machine to selectively pick grapes for premium wine and precision equipment for spraying apple orchards. There will also be a machine developed that can detect obstacles, for use in farming. The partners will continually profit from each other’s knowledge and the goal is that the business community will make the technique more common and will fit in machines for various applications.”

“This is a unique project for Wageningen UR,” says Peter Jongebloed of the International Help desk of Wageningen University. “Wageningen UR is especially successful within the Zevende Kaderprogramma (KP7) in the theme’s ‘food’ and ‘environment’. Wageningen coordinates almost 30 European projects in total and participates in almost 150 others as a partner.

“In the theme ‘nanotechnology’ Wageningen is less active and mostly a partner. Now we coordinate a large project from Wageningen UR Horticulture within this very competitive theme. I expect a huge spin-off from this project, for Wageningen UR as well as the company life in Holland.”

The subsidy Wageningen UR Horticulture receives for the project, is in the theme ‘nanotechnology’ of the section ‘Cooperation’ of the Zevende Kader program. KP7 is a large subsidy programme by the European Union that runs from 2007 up until 2013. Within the section ‘Cooperation’ the European Union asks universities and business communities to formulate projects with the goal of stimulating international cooperation between companies and scientific institutions, in and outside Europe. Science and the industry are challenged to think up solutions for important European questions, for example about the environment, ageing, sustainable energy and public health. The project must contribute to the realisation of European policy in the areas of the environment, climate, food safety and such and has to strengthen the competition power of the European industry. The program KP7 runs up until 2013.