Applied technologies for grading, handling and packaging of soft and deformable products and improved flexibility and reconfigurability of production systems

Why this project?

Market evolution and the rapid change of consumers’ needs have impacted many mass production methods and searches for new solutions that are able to quickly respond to shifting needs and trends. Furthermore, it is necessary for workpiece handling and, more generally, for in-bound logistics systems to become easily adaptable to different goods, more quickly and efficiently. Within this framework, conveyor systems will remain an important technology for food industry in the upcoming years. However, the shifted consumers’ needs require an improved flexibility and reconfigurability of these systems.

Additionally, the market share for robots used for automated material handling will further increase. Whereas a growing number of manufacturers are implementing more affordable, versatile and agile robots to optimize operations such as assemblypickingpacking and palletizing of solid products, the challenge is to handle soft and deformable products such as food, clothes or plastic items.  

Project approach

AGILEHAND is an Horizon Europe project (RIA - research and innovation action) with the aim to develop advanced technologies for grading, handling and packaging autonomously soft and deformable products, and provide a strategic instrument to improve flexibility, agility and reconfigurability of production and logistic systems of the European manufacturing companies.

In  this  context,  AGILEHAND  will deploy 3 integrated Suites:

1) SMART SENSING SUITE: Development of self-calibrating sensing solutions which grade the quality (both interior and exterior) of delicate objects and which will improve production-line traceability, agility and reconfigurability.

2) SELF-ADAPTIVE HANDLING,SORTING AND PACKAGING SUITE: Development of robot or co-robot manipulation systems that reacts to product quality and that can handle, sort or pack different soft and deformable products without causing product damage.

3) AGILE, FLEXIBLE AND RAPID RECONFIGURABLE SUITE: Development of AI based solutions that will allow for monitoring, adaptive control and synchronisation of production and logistics flows in a factory even when facing a high variability of products.

The AGILEHAND solutions will be demonstrated in 4 industrial pilots that differ in characteristics of the surface, deformability, and consistency of the products to be handle:

  • Marelec (Belgium): Grading, batching and packaging of soft, deformable and tacky products such as meat and fish.
  • Multiscan (Spain): Sorting and packaging of a wide variety of vegetables with different shapes and consistency. 
  • Sant’Orsola (Italy): Grading and handling of slightly deformable but very brittle “berry” fruits.
  • Produmar (Portugal): Handling systems for deformable, greasy and slippery fish products.

Target group and expected outcomes

The European industrial handling, sorting and packaging system manufacturers are the primary target group of the AGILEHAND project. Furthermore, the manufacturing industry, manufacturing infrastructure providers, digital technologies providers, service providers and the society in general will also be addressed.

The expected outcomes are:

  • AGILEHAND handbook including strategies for workers’ skills development, health and safety, communication and engagement
  • Self-calibrating sensing solutions for quality grading
  • Robotic manipulation solution for soft and deformable product
  • AI based tools to monitor and continuously improve production and logistic flows
  • Roadmap and impact assessment of different pilot demonstrations
  • Valorisation of solutions in different agri-food sectors

Project partners

This Horizon Europe project is a collaboration between 19 partners from Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Finland, Germany and Denmark, as well as 2 affiliated partners from Japan. The coordination of the project is done by Universita Politecnica delle Marche. Besides Flanders’ FOOD, also Marelec represents Flanders in this project.



This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 101092043. The content of this website does not represent the opinion of the European Union, and the European Union is not responsible for any use that might be made of such content.

Project website: Project - AgileHand


Eline foto medewerker
Eline Stuyven
innovation manager