Theme Robotics for Agri-Food

The following speakers are confirmed for the Agri-Food session:

Chair: Gert Kootstra Wageningen University


Michael Lucas Woolworths Limited

Title: The human factor: balancing people and robotics in grocery & fresh food supply chains

Abstract: As the world becomes a more interconnected and digital environment, the supply of food will remain reliant on the movement of physical “stuff” for the foreseeable future, whether locally or across continents.

While food production has long embraced automation, many food distribution facilities around the world continue to need large human workforces, often alongside automation.  With fixed and inflexible automation giving way to the flexibility of robotics, there are new challenges for managing the food supply chain, particularly how we allocate tasks to people and machines.

Robotics is often seen as the solution to replacing repetitive human tasks in the manufacturing industry.  In the food supply chain, it has begun to follow the same path, with interesting side effects. While robotics and automation are now applied to most handling tasks in many facilities, there are repetitive tasks that are still best performed by people due to the dexterity of the human body and mind.  What are the opportunities for robotics in the food supply chain and what do they mean for the future of work?

Practical examples will be drawn from the application of robotics within the grocery and fresh food supply chains in Australia, unique for the distances covered to provide product to consumers.

Richard van der Linde Lacquey

Title: Advances in robotic fresh cut food processing

Abstract: The fresh food industry is driven by quality increase and cost reduction. This repetitive work in uncomfortable cold production environments longs for a robotic alternative, which is faster, more accurate and opens up a road to a digitized production flow. However, many tasks in the fruit and vegetable segment, such as packaging and trimming, are still hard to automate thus rely on manual labor.

FTNON Delft develops robotic handling solutions and intelligence that are capable of damage free manipulation and interpretation of a wide variety of natural products. These capabilities are essential factors for processing tasks in the fresh food industry. Robotic solutions enable the production of fresh food at low temperatures, at high hygienic standards and with unprecedented efficiencies and quality.

The talk will address current results and challenges in fresh cut processing and will look forward to future challenges. A first application on industrial scale is the decoring of lettuce and cabbage. Some recent results will be shown and discussed.

Eldert van Henten Wageningen University

Title: Agro Food Robotics; state of the art, challenges and opportunities

Abstract: The agro food sector is facing some major challenges in years to come and robotic systems are expected to address some of them by contributing to a smarter and more sustainable agro food production. This presentation will provide a short overview of the state of the art of agro food robotics and will identify challenges and opportunities for robotics research and innovation in this application domain.

Bjorn D’Hoop RijkZwaan

Abstract: I will start my talk with a short introduction about Rijk Zwaan as a company. Next, I will explain in a nutshell what challenges a breeder is facing while creating the next generation cultivars, using the example of cucumber. From there I will move towards the theme of robotics with first attention for the key driving factor for robotics in cucumber, second a view on what’s already there and third an overview of the main challenges for robotics we see. I will continue with sketching what the impact could be of robotics on the global market, on food production, and on breeding. I will finish with a glance on some of the things we as Rijk Zwaan are already doing in the robotics field and how we see the next step.


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