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Gearbox is crucial in asparagus harvesting robot

white aspergusDid you ever harvest asparagus as a way to earn some money as a teenager? Nowadays this is done mainly by foreign workers, but even those are less and less happy doing this kind of work. But how to get the asparagus come on your plate? Cerescon is a young, fast developing high-tech startup that has developed an automatic asparagus harvesting machine to solve this problem.

“White asparagus are now only harvested by hand,” says Technical Director Ad Vermeer. “That is hard work for which growers can find more and more difficult workers to do this job. In addition, the current method has limitations on the quality of the harvested products (damage) and the yield (non-grown asparagus that can only be harvested the next harvest round). This harvest is therefore ready for automation. ”

traditiona aspergus harvestHistory of Cerescon

In 2014, Thérèse van Vinken, Ad and Marc Vermeer founded Cerescon  with the aim of developing a well-functioning asparagus harvesting robot. The experience of Marc as a grower and Ad as a high-tech machine builder was perfectly combined with the management experience of Thérèse who acts as General Manager. When Marc died at the end of 2014 after a short illness, Ad and Thérèse continued with the development. His input of the asparagus application knowledge was picked up by the User Group (strongly interested clientele of Cerescon) and by the Wageningen University of Research.

World premiere: selective, automatic asparagus harvest

During the development of the machine, Cerescon was the first company in the world to successfully demonstrate the feasibility of automatically and selectively harvesting asparagus. Selective harvesting means that only those asparagus are harvested that are fully grown; the remaining asparagus must remain (undamaged) to be harvested a few days later. This is a breakthrough: it is clear to Cerescon and its customers that the asparagus harvesting will change forever.

Sparter, the full automatic aspergus harvest machine

This machine, called Sparter, is still under development. A beta version of the machine was extensively tested in the 2017 season by Wageningen University of Research and by a number of large growers from Cerescon’s User Group. In 2018 the first Sparter is sold and demonstrations are organized at some asparagus growers. The Sparter offers the following benefits to the grower:

  • Splitting the harvesting costs by half
  • Better quality asparagus thanks to a patented underground detection method
  • Less underground damage compared to hand stabbing and therefore higher yields
  • Higher yields due to better quality because the asparagus harvester repairs the sand bed after stabbing, which reduces the percentage of curved asparagus.

Choice for the Apex Dynamics gearbox

Because at Apex Dynamics BV we love eating asparagus, therefor of course we wanted to supply our gearboxes for this special application! After some contact, the  PAII series gearbox was chosen which meets all expectations. Cerescon was so satisfied that the orders for the first prototypes “Sparter” have already been delivered. The Apex Dynamics gearbox ensures that the direction of the motor that drives the y-axis (which makes the knife rotate transversely across the asparagus bed) rotates 90 degrees.

Requirements for the gearbox

The movement of the robot must be extremely accurate (within a few mm) and must never fail during the asparagus season. In the unlikely event that this happens, the complete unit, possibly with motor and gearbox, must be very easy to replace. During the movement over the sand bed, there may be sand, splashing water, dust, dirt, etc. This may not affect the accuracy and reliable operation in a negative way. Our gearbox is ideally suiteable for this application.

Again the extensive program from Apex Dynamics offered a solution for an innovative application. We are proud that our gearbox can prove itself in this demanding environment. Do you also have a challenge in the field of mechanical drives? We are happy to help you!