Dutch radish growing company Ortolanda has been using fully automatic radish harvesting and bunching machines from Koppert Machines for years. ”It is very intensive work, getting the radish out of the ground by hand”, says Melchior Coolbergen, third generation grower.
Ortolanda is the largest indoor radish producer in Europe. The company has more than 40 years of experience in growing radishes. Ortolanda produces bunched radishes and loose radishes year-round in various forms of packaging, using various techniques. It is a Dutch company, that also has a production location in Italy.
Melchior Coolbergen remembers the bunching by hand well. “It was done mostly on the knees. We only had bunches of radishes then. We did not yet supply loose radishes, which are now cut off and eaten as a snack. When Koppert developed the harvesting and bunching machine for Dutch horticulture, everything changed. Almost all growers in the Netherlands switched to this machine. Only a few growers in niche markets now bunch the radishes by hand.”
Koppert’s latest harvest and bunching machine is fully automatic and uses an electro-pneumatic drive. Melchior: “That works well. It is a calm and quiet machine that makes it pleasant to work in the greenhouse. Everything is controlled with air pressure. Koppert Machines was early with the electric drive and in fact way ahead of its time. Not that long ago, almost all machines used internal combustion engines in the greenhouse. It is now clear that machines in greenhouses must be electric within the foreseeable future. Combustion engines will disappear within a few years.”
Text continues below image
The harvester is connected to a power cable via numerous power points that are present throughout the greenhouse. Ortolanda employees can control the machine via a joystick, Melchior says. “We can steer the machine into the rows with it. After that, the machine automatically follows the path, thanks to the mechanical row feelers on board. If the straight line is slightly broken, the machine itself steers slightly to the left or right to continue the work. We have 14 rows that we harvest in one pass. That’s kind of the industry standard.”
The number of radishes Ortolanda takes out of the ground varies. “In the summer we sow thinly, but in the winter we sow thickly. The machine adjusts its speed. When there is more radish per square metre, the harvest is a little slower.”
We always use the right radish varieties, which the machine can harvest easily
Ortolanda ensures that the conditions for the machine are favourable to make harvesting and bunching as smooth as possible. “We always use the right radish varieties, which the machine can harvest easily. And you need to have an even crop. The machine just goes straight and works best with radishes that are the same size.”
Want to know more about the fully automatic harvesting and radish bunching machine by Koppert Machines. You can find all relevant technical specifications in our Buyer’s Guide.
Only one employee is needed per machine, Melchior explains. “This employee checks whether all lines are running properly and whether there are no malfunctions. From time to time, he has to clean the machine with a high-pressure air system. Maintenance is very important. If something is wrong, we fix it the same day. We have people with a good understanding of technology and you need that with these types of machines.”
Text continues below image
“The number of hours we put the machine to work depends on the orders we have. We always start at five in the morning. Purely because the leaf of the radish is nice and fresh then. In the summer we stop around noon, 12 or 1 o’clock. Then the light intensity gets too high and that is not good for bunching. In the summer, there is less demand for bunched radish because there is a lot of radishes grown outdoors then in Europe. In winter, only the Netherlands and Italy produce radishes. Then we are harvesting and bunching for twelve hours a day.
If we had to do the same amount of work with people, we would need 25 people. That is expensive, especially in view of the Dutch wages
The harvesting and bunching machine does the work of at least a dozen employees, Melchior points out. “We have two machines. If we had to do the same amount of work with people, we would need 25 people. That is expensive, especially in view of the Dutch wages. In addition, it is very intensive work, getting the radish out of the ground.”
Because there are not enough people available and the costs of employees are high, the machine provides a good return for Ortolanda. “And we can finish the work on time with the machine. But service is important. We like the fact that we have Koppert Machines close by. This is of course also important for Koppert abroad. To ensure that there is good guidance and service for customers.”