WPS, Rockwell Farms

As Director of Business Development-North America for WPS (We Prove Solutions), Edwin Dijkshoorn works carefully with growers throughout the controlled-environment business. One of his most important roles is to maintain up with evolving developments in automation, the most crucial ache factors for growers, and the way the two can come collectively.

In this unique interview with Greenhouse Grower Senior Editor Brian Sparks, Dijkshoorn shares just a few of his insights.

Brian Sparks: Looking at the large image of greenhouse expertise, what are the most important improvements that you simply’ve seen over the previous couple of years?

Edwin Dijkshoorn: Definitely extra robotics, and that features transplanters. What we’ve got to see now in our business is the realization that you simply even have a plant manufacturing facility, and the minute you describe it in such a method, then your mindset modifications. When you take a look at a automobile manufacturing facility or a pc chip manufacturing facility, you don’t see that many individuals as a result of all the labor that was concerned in that was simply cumbersome. The extra we take a look at labor shortages, I believe we’re going to see modifications with robotics being utilized extra to vegetation, which we already see in Europe. A robotic arm used to value near half one million {dollars}.

Now you should buy a used one for a lot much less, and it ought to nonetheless operate simply as exactly because it did on day one. The minute we begin realizing as an business that robotics and hands-free rising is an actual risk, we are able to begin to focus on the logistics and dealing with facet of issues.

Sparks: Do you see that hands-free method being constant throughout the greenhouse business regardless of what kind of crop you’re rising?

Dijkshoorn: I believe it’s positively doable. In ornamentals, you’ve gotten quite a bit of completely different varieties. But let’s not shut our eyes to the risk; let’s provide you with options which might be manageable. Vegetable greenhouses have made large leaps in the final decade in direction of hands-free rising. If you take a look at some of the lettuce programs out of Finland, they’re phenomenal. Those are a bit extra monocrop, however we see issues occurring in Holland the place growers are implementing extra robotic arms, primarily for packaging. So much of that work requires quite a bit of additional individuals. Most of the time in the decorative business, we focus on the logistics of getting these vegetation out of the greenhouse with handbook labor. But there are programs in ornamentals that may save an incredible quantity of labor. We are working with one grower on a conveyor system to convey baskets to his hanging basket system.

Another grower used to run 24 to twenty-eight baskets per minute on a manufacturing line. With our belts in place he’s as much as 50 now, and that’s solely as a result of his potting machine can not go quicker.

Sparks: Going again to your level about shopping for used gear, we all know worth level is at all times a priority. Growers may even see a brand new piece expertise they like, however usually are not certain they will afford it. Is the used gear market one thing that’s viable in this market?

Dijkshoorn: In Holland, there’s a vibrant used gear market. I can identify three corporations which might be continually promoting used gear and it’s promoting like loopy. For instance, a grower could have purchased a transplanter 5 years in the past to cowl 10 acres. If he’s now at 20 acres, that transplanter won’t be quick sufficient for him, however it’s nonetheless transplanter. If he buys a brand new one, then you’ve gotten a bit of gear that’s nonetheless completely appropriate for one more grower. That’s Holland, and right here in the U.S., it’s harder as a result of of the transportation points. And I believe that’s what holds us up somewhat bit now, except you’ve gotten a bit of gear that’s on the market pretty shut by and one of your individual vehicles can decide it up. Nevertheless, I do really feel this market will decide up increasingly.

Sparks: Return on funding (ROI) is an enormous concern amongst growers at this time. How do you outline return on funding for the growers you’re employed with?

Dijkshoorn: We have an ROI whitepaper. The downside once more is there are a number of pot sizes, and if you automate so many components, your ROI is usually multiplied shortly. Some of the extra fashionable growers have good ERP programs that may pull the numbers. It will be troublesome for different corporations when you think about the huge quantity of completely different varieties they develop. For us, we focus on pot dimension and form, and in the event that they if they will pull these numbers for us, that will assist with an automation ROI calculation. The whitepaper isn’t obtainable but as a result of we’re nonetheless in a testing section with it. But on request we are able to work with the grower on this ROI

Sparks: As you’re speaking with the growers that you simply work with, what are some of the most typical considerations or questions they’ve in terms of expertise in normal?

Dijkshoorn: It’s upkeep. How can we do upkeep, how simple can we get spare components, and might our individuals make the repairs? That’s the large concern, as a result of now you’ve gotten extra difficult gear than carts. If a machine breaks down, it is advisable repair it or your manufacturing stops. So that’s one thing that must be answered. And you see that with corporations like AgriNomix and Bellpark that they anticipate this. It’s the service that’s necessary to them, or the system must be easy sufficient that your in-house mechanic can repair it.

Sparks: What are some of the subsequent large stuff you’re working on at your individual firm?

Dijkshoorn: Our focus right here in the U.S. is on belting programs. We wish to guarantee that handbook labor is being decreased in dealing with and packaging vegetation so in case you market direct, you possibly can shortly put orders collectively and have them able to ship from a central location outdoors of the manufacturing greenhouse. With so many alternative varieties in the decorative business, that’s troublesome. But so what? We want to take a look at what we are able to do in a unique method.

The different factor that we do as an organization is phenotyping, which includes actually drilling down right into a plant with cameras and seeing what is going on with the plant. It’s all analysis centered, however we get quite a bit of our expertise by investing in that market and making use of it to common horticulture. It’s type of like Formula One racing: the expertise they create, after a pair years, you’ll in all probability discover in your automobile. That’s how we method this as nicely; you find out about new expertise, and later when it’s extra inexpensive, you convey it into the broader horticulture market. But you need to do it. As many growers have stated, you automate or stagnate.

Sparks: There was an fascinating panel dialogue ultimately 12 months’s Cultivate that was centered on automation for growers of any dimension, which echoes what you’re speaking about.

Dijkshoorn: Yes, and I noticed one other panel dialogue final 12 months the place individuals weren’t satisfied that conveyor belts had been the reply. I heard that and thought, they’re not getting the entire message. Because since Henry Ford, what’s one factor you see in each manufacturing facility? A conveyor belt We simply want to take a look at it with a programs method. The different factor that I hear is that we’ve got too many alternative merchandise to load onto the identical conveyor. Companies like UPS are utilizing them, and people guys have a a lot bigger selection of sizes containers than we’ve got in pots. So to me, that may be a non-issue. The query is, can we make a system low cost sufficient that growers can get an honest ROI on it? When I am going again to my first comment about the business as a plant manufacturing facility, then the leap to an automatic system is way simpler.

Learn extra about WPS at their web site.


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