At the IPM in Essen it could already be admired, the renewed Plant Elevation System that automates the lowering of tomato and cucumber plants in high-wire cultivation. Mat Versleijen from Mertens BV: "It is becoming more and more difficult to find workers for the labor in greenhouses, which in turn increases labor costs. Because the PES completely automates the lowering of the plants, it saves 85 to 90% of the involved labor time."
Lisa Hermans and Mat Versleijen
Mertens and Atgrow, two companies from Horst in Limburg (the Netherlands), have jointly developed the Plant Elevation System that pumps air pressure into a transparent ring line. "With two pump movements the plant sinks a whole centimeter and the plant also shifts a whole centimeter on the wire."
"A central compressor provides the ring line with air pressure of one bar. The system can be fully set according to individual preferences in terms of the lowering height and the time frame. For example, it is possible to lower the plants 4 centimeters between ten o’clock in the evening and one o'clock at night."
In the development of the patented system, the consequences for cultivation were extensively taken into account. The PES gradually lowers the plants. "This ensures that the plant is physically taxed as little as possible. Standard tomato hooks, for example, cause the plants to drop about 20 cm in one go. There are some tomato varieties whereby the fruits hang less firmly on the vines. If the lowering of the plants goes too fast, tomatoes may come loose."
The new system is still fully in the start-up phase, Mat explains. "In 2017 it was tested extensively at the Test Center in Hoogstraten and in two greenhouses, and tests are being carried out this year as well. By positioning the PES system in illuminated cultivation above the lamps, the loss of light is minimal. By the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019, we want to market the system on a larger scale and we hope to make big steps within a few years."