AutoSpar Picks Asparagus Helped by a 3D Camera
The special-purpose AUTOSPAR vehicle identifies and cuts the asparagus spears with the aid of intelligent 3D stereoscopic image and sensor data processing, electronic drive systems, and mechanical positioning elements, lifts them out of the soil, and then packs them into trays. “After the next nine-month development phase, our aim is that `AutoSpar` will be in the fields by the next asparagus harvest in May 2013", said Universität Bremen (Germany)'s Dr. Ing. Holger Raffel.
With AutoSpar and its 3D stereoscopic cameras, harvesting costs are down to 1 or 2 €/kg instead of 3 to 5 Euros/kg for the manual way.
Asparagus is one of most nutritious vegetables. It is known,amongst others, for its high content of folic acid, Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3 and C. Due to its costly cultivation (first harvest three years after plantation), the manual harvesting (3 to 5 Euro/kg) and the very short harvesting time (9 to 11 weeks in April and June), asparagus is one of the most expensive vegetables in Europe. Depending on the season, prices can reach up to 10 Euro per kilogram (consumer prices). With 35 to 50% of the production cost, harvesting cost represents an important share which offers considerable potential for reduction.
There are three types of cultivated asparagus: white, violet and green. The exposure time of asparagus to sunlight determines its colour – under sunlight the white asparagus turns first violet and then green. The cultivation methods applied determine the colour. Green asparagus (2% of the total cultivated asparagus in Europe, 98% in the US) for example is grown above ground and tastes most similar to the ”original” wild asparagus.
Participating in the development of "AutoSpar" are the Bremer Centrum für Mechatronik (BCM) at the University of Bremen, the food technology specialist BIOZOON GmbH in Bremerhaven – also the consortium leader, international small- and medium-sized firms, the Dutch partner IMIX Vision Support Systems, and STRAUSS Verpackungsmaschinen GmbH in Buxtehude.
STRAUSS and BCM will work together on the mechanical engineering aspects of “AutoSpar”, developing it into a robust machine suitable for harvesting asparagus crops. The machine will be adapted to suit Eastern European requirements by the Rumanian Tritecc technology transfer center, ensuring that “AutoSpar” makes its debut all over Europe.
AutoSpar project Info
Autospar was developed by University of Bremen (Germany) and coordinated by BioZoon (Bremerhaven, Germany) from January 2008 to October 2010. The project was supported by the European commission Research Executive Agency in the scope of Framework Program 7.