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Automation and digitalisation in the vegetable to veggie food system

General objectives

Vegetable processing companies want to remain competitive in a highly competitive market with small profit margins. Operational optimisation of the production lines and the logistic chain play a key role. So investing in automation was and still is high on the agenda. The next phase, Industry 4.0, is approaching. Digital data exchange will form the base for smarter production. Considering the variation in raw materials, high production throughput and diversity of the product range (often private label), this is quite a challenge. A challenge that can really only be tackled by digitising vegetable cultivation. Data can be supplied by sensors in the fields, on agricultural equipment or via remote sensing systems (e.g. drones and satellites). Their application possibilities for precision farming management can offer opportunities for increasing efficiency in our fragmented farming land. Labour-intensive vegetable cultivations (such as leek and cabbages) are not ready for this yet and must still take the first step towards automation. Recent developments in robotics offer opportunities to compensate for the severe shortage of seasonal workers. On the sales side of vegetable processing, data sharing technologies (such as blockchain) are becoming the norm for logistical connections all the way down to the consumer. This results in secure transaction transparency and better traceability. Another advantage is that it results in 'big data', which allows for further increases in efficiency and sustainability via data management innovations and which may even create new business opportunities.

This concept is aimed at research and development projects where players in the vegetable to veggie food system, in collaboration with technology suppliers and research institutes, accept the automation and digitisation challenges while also exposing their potential.

Expected results

  • Automation and robotisation in labour-intensive vegetable cultivation
  • Precision agriculture applications in vegetable cultivation
  • Digitally transformed vegetable agri-business complex
  • Flexible, efficiently networked vegetable processing food system
  • Win-win situations at all system levels

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