Technology solutions for future proofing fruit cultivation

QING and other Dutch AgriFoodTech companies join forces with companies, knowledge institutes and growers in the Netherlands and Washington State to solve the most important automation and robotization challenges for fruit cultivation.

Today, on 3 February 2021 thirty public and private organizations are partnering in a non-binding collaboration agreement to work together in the coming years on the ‘Fruit Orchard of the Future’. The partners include Dutch and US companies, the Washington Tree Fruit Research commission, the Dutch Fruit Growers Association, Dutch technological association FME, NLWorks and several universities from both sides of the ocean. In order to accelerate innovation and create business opportunities for Dutch AgriFoodTech companies, FME took the initiative in 2018 to cooperate with California and Washington State.

The agreement helps to accelerate the development of new technology for the fruit farming sector through a public-private partnership. This acceleration is necessary to be able to meet the increasing need for sufficient food, sustainability requirements, the environment and food safety on the one hand, and the decreasing number of working people available in the fruit sector on the other.

“Technology implementation into orchards has to accelerate to enable our state’s tree fruit industry to remain viable and prosper into the next decade,”

said Ines Hanrahan, Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission Executive Director.

What will we work on?

The four most critical issues to make the fruit orchard of the future possible are good sensor technology, data management, robotization & automation and the design of the orchard. The Netherlands is leading in sensor technology and data management and Washington is leading in robotization/automation and shaping of the orchard. Because both regions have developments in all four themes, they can reinforce each other, which makes acceleration possible. You can work more efficiently, because there is no duplication of work, and it helps tree fruit producers on both side of the Atlantic Ocean to remain competitive and profitable.

“There is also a lot to learn from each other in the non-technical field. In the United States, an innovative idea is ‘just taken up and running – making mistakes is allowed’. In the Netherlands, everything is first well thought out according to the triple helix model. Sometimes one thing works and sometimes the other. Here too, there is much to learn from each other,” says Marcel van Haren, program manager for agriculture, water and food at FME.

Together, we are working on harvesting robots for apples and pears, further automation of precision sprayers, better sensors and algorithms to collect cultivation data for apple and pear orchards and create decision models based on data and expertise.

Apples and pears

“Working together on technological developments not only offers Dutch tech companies the opportunity to develop new knowledge and innovations faster to help solve common challenges in the fruit sector. With an apple and pear sector 10 times the size of the Netherlands, it also directly contributes to increasing market access and business opportunities” according to Daniel da Costa, program manager NLWorks.

Will you join us?

This cooperation agreement is the beginning of a multi-year collaboration. The goal is to share knowledge and expertise in the four designated fields of sensor, data, automation and orchard design. There is plenty of room to participate! Participation offers a large network of companies, knowledge institutes and growers. FME will guide the process together with NLWorks, Wageningen UR and the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission and define development projects so that coalitions of public-private organizations and knowledge institutions can realize them. This international network offers innovation and business opportunities for AgriFoodTech companies.

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