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02 June 2022

Self-flying drones that monitor greenhouses

Self-flying drones that monitor greenhouses TU Delft, Royal Brinkman and start-up Mapture have developed the next step in drone technology for agriculture. Their new AI-enabled drone takes off completely independently, flies over rows of plants and people in a greenhouse, takes high-resolution photos, and lands safely back on its charging station. The photos provide growers with information about diseases and pests much more quickly. The drone is a long-established and proven way to collect large-scale and autonomous data, but most current self-flying drones operate only outdoors, high in the sky. Guido de Croon, professor of bio-inspired drones at TU Delft said that the reason relates to GPS: “Drones typically rely on GPS to know where they are and where to go. In indoor spaces, such as greenhouses, GPS is not reliable enough for navigation when flying autonomously. At the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering we are working on light, small drones that can fly independently using AI. This is important, because such drones are very safe for humans, who don’t need to take extra safety measures when flying the drones. Making such a light drone fly independently is a major challenge, because they have far fewer sensors and less on-board computing power than, for example, a self-driving car. We have developed a localization technique – the drone combines signals from radio beacons in the greenhouse with its own observations to find its location as precisely as possible.” Read more...

24 February 2022

TU Delft spin-offs piloting at Koppert Cress

Every year many TU Delft spin-offs develop services or products based on acquired scientific knowledge. Many of these young companies find their way to start-up incubator YES!Delft. In almost all cases, being able to talk to end users and test in an operational or at least realistic test environment is crucial for successful validation and market introduction of the product. This certainly also applies to AgTech start-ups, where being able to test a product in a greenhouse or in a field provides very valuable feedback for validation. In practice, however, it is not always easy for start-ups to find locations, partners or funding for this phase in their development. Koppert Cress in Monster (municipality Westland) stepped in and offers several TU Delft spin-offs the opportunity to test their innovations in an actual greenhouse. Koppert Cress is of course known as a grower of various types of fresh cresses, edible flowers and leaves and and the production of Dutch vanilla , but is also a front-runner in applying technical innovations Koppert Cress is facilitating pilots for the following TU Delft Spin-offs: PHYSEE has developed a PAR+-coating which can be applied on greenhouses in order to improve the light quality. The PAR+-coating contains luminescent UV to PAR particles which make the light diffuse. This coating is unique, as part of the harmful UV radiation is converted into useful PAR light enabling hortiscatter without PAR losses. PHYSEE has applied 50m2 of PAR+-coating on a greenhouse of Koppert Cress to measure the impact of the coating on various crops. PATS is developing insect scouting and bat-like drone technology to identify and eliminate harmful insects like the Turkish moth. PATS is piloting autonomous and biological insect control technology at Koppert Cress. BBBLS is developing the Energy Saving Greenhouse using various technological innovations. One of their main innovations is a method of providing extra insulation for greenhouses with soap bubbles. Together with Koppert Cress and other project partners, BBBLS is developing a crop experimentation and demonstration of BBBLS Energy Saving Greenhouse. Thermeleon is developing innovative heat storage solutions. The products of Thermeleon enable heat storage in the greenhouse construction, floor and even in moving screens. This makes the greenhouse an actual heat battery. The pilot at Koppert Cress helps Thermeleon in the selection of configuration and in their solutions.

25 October 2021

GreenTech 2021 Live&Online

Last month, the GreenTech Live & Online event took place at RAI Amsterdam. The TU Delft was present with Liselotte de Vries (Chairman Innovation Award Jury, TU Delft AgTech Institute) handing out the Green Tech Innovation Awards 2021 and with a presentation from Andy Jenkins and Tess Blom on vertical farming and Ties van Bruinessen on the TU Delft RoboHouse. During the opening ceremony Liselotte handed out the concept award for the most promising new idea and the innovation award for the most revolutionary idea. The concept award was won by Corvus Drones , who’s drones fly autonomously in greenhouses and collect crop data. The jury was impressed by their business model, a subscription model, and their platform concept, which stimulates collaboration between partners with different expertise. The winner of the Innovation Award is Van Iperen . Van Iperen turns nitrogen from organic sources into a fertilizer, using their GreenSwitch® Original. Liselotte: ‘They really took a systems approach. They tied together different actors in the chain, and we believe they can make a worldwide impact with this solution. ‘ Andy Jenkins and Tess Blom discussed the first research results of the ‘Sky High’ project at TU Delft. The research has focus on the potential of vertical farms integrated within buildings and cities. The central concept of ‘urban symbiosis’, in which resources between a building and a vertical farm are exchanged could result in a decrease of the usage of CO 2 , water and energy. For example, the CO 2 emmission from a building could be transmitted to the vertical farm, where it is used for the growth of plants. In a similar way, the residual heat from the vertical farm can be used for heating the building. The project aims to make the energy usage of vertical farms comparable to the energy usage of greenhouses, reduce the amount of water used for crop growth to 2-4 liters per kilo crop and increase the taste, shelf life and nutrition value of crops with at least 20%. In the afternoon Ties van Bruinessen, business developer at the TU Delft, presented on the possibilities of robotics in the Agrifood sector, in relation to RoboHouse. RoboHouse is the robotics fieldlab at the TU Delft campus and enables research and prototyping on the future of work including collaboration between humans and robots. RoboHouse is a place where researchers and companies collaborate and co-create on robotic solutions. In the field of food and retail, RoboHouse currently collaborates with companies like Ahold Delhaize and Heineken. Ties: “The position between companies and research is exactly where RoboHouse fits in.” The beating heart of RoboHouse are the Working Labs, which can be described as themed prototyping environments, for example focused on AgriFood, retail, health and production.
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