Adding Precision to Agriculture

Introduction

The close collaboration between PlantmatiQ, Hol Spraying Systems (HSS) and Agromanager has resulted in a powerful pooling of knowledge of the industrial world and precision agriculture

HSS was looking for a sparring partner who could think along in the development of their future machines. The result is that since 2018, we have been designing and maintaining the hardware and software for HSS.

Together with Agromanager, we have reliably translated the “Agromanager” software into hardware and physical actions: “the spraying of trees”. In addition, we were able to provide the necessary tools for Agromanager to benchmark their software solutions on various industrial PCs (IPc’s).

The division of tasks within the collaboration is as follows:

  • PlantmatiQ provides plc software and hardware design, and is closely involved in the development of Agromanager’s spray controller application;
  • HSS supplies the spraying systems;
  • Agromanager provides the interface between administration, data, GPS system and the PLC.

Problem

For fruit farmers spraying is an essential part of growing fruit. It is of vital importance that every tree or crop receives just enough of spraying fluid. It is not easy to determine the right dose.

The goal has always been: drift reduction. Higher drift reduction means that more accurate spraying can be performed, which reduces the environmental impact and reduces consumption of spray fluids.

Besides adding functionality, work had to be done on the user-friendly operation in order to be able to set the spraying systems more accurately. In addition, the controls had to be prepared for application on a future generation of spraying systems.

Solution

We started out by asking questions: Who are the people using these systems? What are the challenges in doing their work? How can we contribute to a better work environment? In the end, this should be a tool that is easy to use and to maintain.

This led, among other things, to an ergonomic design of the main driving screen. Check marks indicate when an optimal spray mist is present, and whether spray caps may be clogged.

The modular design of the hardware and software makes it possible to control every available option with the PLC software. Options can be implemented together or separately, e.g. by making it possible to install a 2020 option on a 2018 spraying system (backward compatibility).

We also thought of the machine builder (HSS): This system is easy to commission, due to the availability of simple and automated calibration routines.

Always keep thinking along with the customer, and with his customer!

The Next Step

The next step is to test additional functionalities. Some of these are currently being rolled out.

GPS Option

Tests are well on their way to control spraying systems using a “job file” with GPS positions. This makes it possible to choose in advance which trees should or should not be treated (section control). With the GPS module used, an accuracy of 2 cm can be achieved driving at over 8 km/h.

The iPC of this system is equipped with a PlantmatiQ compiled operating system, which is impervious to voltage failure. Remote support is provided by Agromanager or by us over a VPN connection.

I.S.A. (Intelligent Spray Application) Option

“I.S.A.” is a system that is able to control nozzles based on the leaf mass that is measured. This increases the efficiency of spraying, and on average results in a 25% improvement on the use of water, plant protection products and fertilisers. With this system it will even be possible to control the amount of deposition on tree level.

An additional benefit is that the leaf mass is recorded during measuring. As a result, every time this system is driven through the orchard, a clear picture of the condition of the trees can be obtained. This data can be used for further growth regulation or fertilization.

In Conclusion

Projects like this can only succeed in good cooperation, when knowledge and expertise are shared.

Due to the multifaceted knowledge within IT and OT, we have been able to make a major contribution to an unprecedented piece of innovation within the “hard fruit” sector.

Contact us

Ready to start your next project with us? That’s great! Feel free to contact us with any question you might have.

Address

Energieweg 30, 3771 NA Barneveld, The Netherlands

Email address

info@plantmatiq.com

Case Study: Rotaform

Case study Rotaform_Fotor

Rotaform, Lelystad, The Netherlands

Background information: the machine

Rotaform’s machine makes small lotto rolls: the rolls you see in the lotto printer behind the cash register in a supermarket. The process of making these rolls proceeds as follows:

  • First, a lotto roll (half a meter) is pre-printed by another machine. Then it passes through Rotaform’s slithering machine. This machine unrolls the wide lotto roll at one side, then guides the paper through razors and rolls it up on the other side. After this, it divides the paper into five small rolls, to fit into the lotto printer in the supermarket. Each (smaller) roll contains a few lots.

During its twenty-five years of loyal service, the Rotaform machine has been equipped with three printers. These printers put a small designation sign at that point where only ten tickets remain on the roll. This way, the printer at the cashier ‘knows’ when enough tickets remain for one street.

 

The case

These printers, with an improvised timer relay, are not very accurate and hard to adjust for different ticket sizes. When Rotaform was assigned to make several new tickets, they needed a machine that could produce tickets with varying sizes. In short: the current control system did no longer met the requirements. And even worse: the electronic components were no longer available. A major risk for the company!

 

Research and Solution

We conducted general and specific research to the machine: what is the current state? How well does the machine work? How is the machine handled? What challenges are being faced? What functionalities should work differently, and which ones need to be added?

After the technical analysis and an interview with the operator, we concluded that  a new control system was the best option for Rotaform. This way we could replace the existing facilitator and its relay for a new control system. An integrated operating system, instead of different systems, is always better for guaranteeing operational reliability.

 

The result: an upgraded machine

  • Instead of a control with buttons and a single-line display, we have included a touchscreen panel. This way, configuration of the machine is easy.
  • With the touchscreen function we have enabled a quick and easy menu function: the operator can simply selects the desired roll format and the machine executes its task accordingly.
  • There is little to no training required: the usage of the control panel has barely been adjusted compared to the ‘old’ one.
  • In cooperation with Routeco we have replaced the main motor (DC Motor) by a servomotor: a servomotor requires less maintenance, as no carbon brushes need to be replaced. Moreover, the motor is easier to handle in regard to clutching, speed and positioning.
Timo supplied our old and risky machine with a modern control system, including an Allen Bradley plc. This project proceeded flawlessly, without any delay in operations. It was a pleasant collaboration; the activities were adapted to our wishes and resulted in a machine with an extended lifecycle.
Matthijs de Leeuw
Rotaform
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