FLIA 2016: Hortiplan tech could be tip of the iceberg for cutting labor costs
As part of our Fruit Logistica Innovation Award (FLIA) 2016 nominations series, www.freshfruitportal.com speaks with Hortiplan business development manager Kurt Cornelissen about an automated system that will speed up the packaging of lettuce varieties.
It is fair to say innovations and high-tech solutions that automate processes and reduce labor costs are pretty en vogue in the global fresh produce sector, and won't be going out of fashion anytime soon.
Although it is relatively new to the market, Dutch company Hortiplan's Harvest Automation system is appealing to businesses looking to streamline packhouse operations from Chile to Russia and Australia to the U.S.
"Hortiplan itself is a designer, manufacturer and installer of hydroponic and automated growing systems for lettuce and herbs. With our new system, we were able to add automation so lettuce is automatically lifted out of the gutters and, if the customer wishes, we can bring them to individual packing stations," he tells www.freshfruitportal.com.
"This can be a group solution; a line where people work together to harvest, but it can also be an individual station so the grower can better monitor the labor productivity, efficiency and output of each individual worker.
"The growing system can be installed in the greenhouse and the packing itself can either be done in the greenhouse or in an adjacent packinghouse."
Harvest Automation can be used across all lettuce varieties as well as compact Asian cabbage such as Pak Choi.
"For example, companies that harvest a lightweight lettuce, the lettuce can be packed entirely but the bigger the crop is, the more likely some human manipulation will be needed."
The machinery appeals to the international market, says Cornelissen, but is more likely to be appealing to business with high labor costs.
“We've installed several harvesting stations in California and meanwhile we've just finished another in Belgium. For these customers, it’s speeding up their harvesting processes and eliminating labor."
Showcasing at Fruit Logisitica
Cornelissen is part of a Hortiplan delegation attending Fruit Logisitica next month and is particularly looking forward to the FLIA announcement towards the end of the event.
"When you participate in the innovation awards, you never know whether you’ll be amongst the nominations or not, so it’s great that we have been nominated and we are excited to see how we will do during Fruit Logistica."