Martens Asparagus and Teboza, both in the Netherlands, officially took delivery of their Sparter harvesting robots by Cerescon. In the coming asparagus season, six Sparters will be operational in the field.
In addition to these two machines another Sparter will be operational in the Netherlands and one in Germany during the coming season. The fifth will be harvesting in both the Netherlands in Germany on a rental basis, and the sixth will be going on a roadshow through Italy and Germany.
Cerescon sees the deployment of their Sparter robots as the beginning of a new era when it comes to asparagus harvesting. Not only because of the robotised, selective harvesting method in combination with underground detection with moisture sensors, but also because the software will be collecting a lot of data that can provide valuable information about for example production and quality per plot and per variety.
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Compared to the end of last season, the Sparter has been modified in several ways. The noise production of the generator in particular has been reduced to below the standard of 80 dB(A). The tracks have also been equipped with twelve support wheels, which help the machine run more smoothly over the field with less vibrations.
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The work platform is equipped with a sliding roof and the operator can control the machine from his workplace via a touch screen. From the same location, he can change the containers in which the harvested asparagus are placed. He also transfers them into the desired container and can perform pre-sorting in the process.
The work platform can hold 120 kilos of asparagus in containers which are placed on the edges of the platform, and an additional 120 kilos in different locations. There are steps to the left and right of the platform so it can be exited from both sides of the ridges.
The “fingers” on the conveyor belt that brings the asparagus up to the working platform have been made 1 centimeter longer. Before the asparagus end up in the collection bin, they pass over lengthwise rotating soft rubber wheels that place all the asparagus in the same direction. The whole thing is adjustable to direct the excess sand back onto the field. The Sparter deliberately harvests a certain amound of soil in order to minimise damage to the asparagus.
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The operator has access to three monitors. One is the aforementioned touch screen for operating the Sparter. The second is a monitor linked to a camera at the front of the machine, so the operator can see if someone is standing in front of the machine. For safety, there are also bumpers at the front of the machine. If they hit something, the machine stops immediately.
The third screen is optional and can display images from four cameras that can be hung at desired locations in the interior of the robot to provide an overview of the whole harvesting operation.
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The Sparter is equipped with several emergency buttons within reach of the operator and around the machine. There’s also a locked ‘gate’ that provides access to the robot. When the gate is opened, the machine stops automatically. Only when the gate has been closed and the Sparter has been reset, it can resume harvesting. All moving parts are behind safety screens.