Technology 2 September 2015

The challenges of
new technology in the
agricultural industry

New technological advancements, such as sensors and drones, are emerging in the agricultural sector. Many growers see the advantages and are experimenting with these techniques. This often involves a lot of data collection. However, improvements can still be made in terms of analysing and exploiting this data to improve harvests. HZPC founded Solentum B.V. to offer a workable solution.

Solentum: agricultural insight

'Four years ago, we started an innovative project that led to the recent launch of Solentum,' explains Solentum manager Lilian Escalon. 'Many visitors to our research centre in Metslawier have said they were impressed by the technology we use there and would like to use them as well. However, these technological advancements require extremely specialized knowledge which makes sharing them difficult, so we started looking for ways to adapt our technologies for the benefit of our chain partners.'

Lilian Escalon, manager Solentum

'We spent four years developing techniques, collecting data, and making a product. We're now ready to unveil two products: an app that advises growers and a machine that rates the colour of chips. These two products are now available for interested parties. To organize this launch, we founded the company Solentum.’

Simply take a photo of a plant

Solgrader: the grower's app

Growers use a range of different growth models, many of which include complex calculation techniques. It often takes growers days to take measurements and enter data. The Solgrader app by Solentum makes this process much easier. Simply take a photo of a plant and the app automatically records and saves the most important data. The app also gives growers advice on how to work more efficiently and can calculate how much volume is currently on the field. It's also useful for the companies that buy the potatoes, as it can help them determine more quickly whether the yields will be suitable.

Grading colours with Soleye

A second product offered by Solentum is a machine that automatically grades the colour of chips. This is important as the colour determines what the potato will be used for. As everyone perceives colours differently, it's hard to collect objective data. This machine gives you instant results at the press of a button. Soleye can see exactly how many pixels there are and how these are distributed. 'This may seem simple, but given that potatoes are not a uniform product, it's taken years to collect the data necessary for making a representative calculation,' explains Lilian. The biggest advantage for chips processors, for example, is that Soleye does the work of several people, which leads to maximum uniformity. Moreover, this technique can be used by the industry and packagers to determine the homogeneity of cooking types.

Ask us your questions about new technology: we're up for the challenge!

The future

'With Solentum, we are transforming complex techniques into concrete products that benefit our chain partners,' says Lilian. 'These first two products won't be our last! We see a bright future for these techniques. Not only do they increase yields, they also help us economize our use of raw materials like water and pesticides. Our strength is that we have a huge quantity of data available to develop products like these. Our challenge is to make complex processes more user-friendly. To the InZpire readers: ask us your questions about new technology. We're up for the challenge! We might just have the solution you need.'