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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 51: Symposium on Protected Cultivation of Flowers and Vegetables

INDUSTRIAL CROP PRODUCTION

Author:   G.H. Germing
Abstract:
Mechanization and automation of the process of plant production are stimulated by shortage of human labour or - as a result of it - increasing labour costs.

The special character of most horticultural products is the direct relation between price and quality. This quality concerns the exterior appearance (size, shape, colour) as well as the interior condition (freshness, flavour, keepability).

The importance of delivering a product of excellent quality is a restriction on the mechanization, because in addition to a rather heavy and unattractive labour demand, the production process includes an essential amount of craftmanship. Furthermore the great variety of products limits the application of universal machines, so a number of specific machines and equipment must be used.

It is obvious therefore that mechanization and automation of the horticultural production process usually leads to high investments, because of the intricate nature of the hand labour they are to replace.

This high level of investment for the mechanization of plant production is only justified if the equipment can be used efficiently, which includes full-time utilization of the space and installations. In order to achieve this, once-over harvesting and year-round production are important conditions. In other words highly mechanized and automated plant production requires far-reaching adaptations of the growing methods and the varieties of the crops. In relation to the vulnerable character of horticultural products the harvest especially creates a bottle-neck in the mechanization process.

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