For about a year now, Dutch hydrangea grower Vicini has been working with the IRISS hydrangea sorting machine of 4More Technology (4MT). Before, they sorted manually; the only option as there was no machine for our production size. Till they come in touch with the team of 4MT.
For the majority of the cut flower growers, there are sorting machines on the market for years. However, for the hydrangea, this is not the case. When Johan Zwinkels started growing hydrangeas in 2004, the crop was not the most innovative and not much automation was used, he tells us.
Johan Zwinkels, Tim van der Elst and Wouter Vreugdenhil
Still, in the winter there are no flowers, but the market definitely changed. It has grown significantly. The crop is grown on about 200 ha and with 120 suppliers to the auction, competition has grown too. Automation is desired, but quality standards are high.
4MT, which is already strongly represented in roses and is one of the leaders in the field of vision technology and were eager to meet the demand. But how should the flower pass the camera? Hanging vertically or laying down horizontally. Both not possible so the solution? A belt that is positioned at slightly upright angle and when the belt stops, the bulb hangs freely in the air and a photo can be taken. Then, the stem falls onto a horizontal belt and runs just below it, the stem is cut to length and delivered to the correct sorting exit.
Getting used to it
It is working. And that was also what impressed Johan when he came to see a prototype at the 4More Technology in Moerkapelle. “We have to have it,” he said right away. In the middle of the season – ‘not really the best time because we were processing a lot of flowers’ – everything was installed and after a chaotic day he started to get used to it.
The advantages are evident: labor savings, uniformity and peace of mind in the process. Johan: “Everyone can sort, but no one can be sharp for a day, that’s just not possible.” In addition, he is particularly pleased with the structure of the process; there is a clear division of tasks and there is much less confusion. And finally, ‘you can easily walk away from it’, something that the men of 4MT also heard a lot from fellow growers. “The growers often do the bunching themselves, because they want to know what goes out and thus have emotional control over the quality. Now you no longer have that worry and your hands are free to do something else.”
Ready for the future
After Peeters Hortensia, another Dutch hydrangea grower, Vicini was the second grower with an IRISS Hydrangea sorter machine and since its launch last year, the machine manufacturer, which also offers their vision technology and logistics automation solution for other crops, has sold almost a dozen of them. For a nursery with the size of Vicini – 2 hectares, in the high season up to 6 or 7 thousand stems are harvested per day – the machine has more than sufficient capacity. “Now we can easily grow 10 hectares,” Jack, Johan’s son and formal owner said enthusiastically. That may be a bit too ambitious, but with the 3.5 hectare new nursery in De Lier, where father and son will move in a few months, it should work fine.
For more information
Kwekerij Vicini BV
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