Frestia | GearPerformer enhances our quality and crop process
At Frestia, the emphasis is on taste, innovation and customer-oriented thinking. The horticultural nursery from Honselersdijk (NL) is constantly looking for new insights and developments to improve the quality of its product and to optimize the crop process. In Frestia, Gearbox has found a partner to introduce the GearPerformer.
Patrick Franken of Frestia sees the GearPerformer as “the start of a new start” in innovation and robotization at the company. He expects it will help to better anticipate future issues, such as labor savings, quality improvement and customer-centric requirements. “We want to look ahead,” he says. “More than 300 bell peppers pass on the belt per minute. Until recently, these snack peppers were inspected for quality by just two people. With such a volume, it’s not always possible to remove 100% of all products that do not meet quality standards. In addition, the availability of personnel is becoming an increasing challenge.”
Frestia was one of the first greenhouse horticulture companies to market snack peppers in the Netherlands. “We want to be trendsetters,” says Franken. “We are pioneering new varieties and new traits to improve quality. Taste is of paramount importance. You taste with your eyes; external characteristics being relevant. Since the consumer puts the snack pepper directly in their mouth, the product must meet the desired quality.”
“I see the GearPerformer as the start of a new start in innovation and robotization at our company”
Patrick Franken van Frestia
All puzzle pieces in place
Some questions arose: What can robotization mean for the optimization of business processes? What can I do with the product, according to the grower? “We have discussed these concerns with various parties, including those in the industry. You run into limitations. For example, certain innovations are not yet applicable in our company,” notes Franken. However, during conversations with Gearbox, all the puzzle pieces fell into place. “We initially wanted to take the next step in the processing of conical peppers. But since the snack pepper process is already automated after quality inspection, the GearPerformer turned out to be a logical start in this configuration.”
Frestia and Gearbox sat down together to see what the new machine should look like and what requirements it should meet. From concept to delivery, the process took about a year and a half. In order to arrive at desired configuration together, they started with a proof of concept, in which Gearbox demonstrated that the realization of the machine was possible. Franken explains, “We have the practice in-house, so we know what the quality issues are. As a grower, I am not hindered by any technical limitations. That helps to achieve a direction that’s workable with the technical team at Gearbox.”
The result of this collaboration: GearPerformer. By bringing together camera technology, smart AI software and robotics, the device is able to assess the quality of the product from all sides and to sort out peppers that do not meet requirements. According to Franken, “We get real-time insight into the quality of a batch via a reporting tool. We are now working on fine-tuning the machine to further meet quality standards. It’s getting smarter and better every day.”
Source of new insights
A valuable side effect is that the GearPerformer generates an enormous amount of data, which Frestia can use to optimize the business processes in the greenhouse. Franken explains, “The reporting dashboard gives us a source of new insights into things that we previously didn’t have so explicitly in view. For example, we now know exactly what the properties of a batch are and what percentage has what length. We can also better monitor the characteristics of a variety. Normally, we judge those properties with our eyes. But now we have a whole dataset at our disposal, so that we can look at that variety in a different way.”
This allows Frestia to better cater to customer tastes. He adds, “Suppose we sort the snack peppers according to a certain size. Peppers that are too small or too large are then automatically removed. In this way, we can introduce a new segment into the market. We want to differentiate more towards our customers. I expect this will have a new impact.”
More greenhouse data
Franken hopes that Frestia will be able to control data in the greenhouse even more with the GearPerformer in the future. For example, using this data to trace why a quality issue has arisen, and how it can be resolved during cultivation. Furthermore, he sees additional opportunities to generate useful information with Gearbox software. For example, to establish a link between climate conditions in the greenhouse and product variety or quality by analyzing data to determine the influence of temperature or amount of sunlight in the greenhouse on the length of the pepper. To put it simply, Franken summarizes, “The more data we get, the more we can optimize the crop processes. I see the GearPerformer as the start of a new start in innovation and robotization at our company.”
Rad more about the GearPerformer on the product page.