CU LTIVATION AND TECHNOLOGY Proud British entrepreneurs continue to innovate even after Brexit Robust gripper for robotic arm It is well known in the sector that many arable farmers are technically skilled. And so it is no surprise that some of them have turned their hobby into a serious business. A striking example of such an agricultural technician is Richard Bradley. With a degree in technical engineering in his pocket, his skills are extremely useful on the family farm in Wisbech, More interest for e-lift trucks Although farmers are still fond of the roar of diesel engines, an increasing number of entrepreneurs in the industry are looking at electric power. Especially when it comes to forklift trucks, according to exhibitor Doosan UK. Potato growers are showing more and more interest anyway and often prefer the battery to the diesel,’ says salesman Ray Max. Particularly the young entrepreneurs, while he points to a whole delegation of students from an agricultural college who are interested in the linked batteries of one of the e-forklift trucks. It’s still, the more the merrier, the salesman laughs. He believes that electricity scores so well for a number of reasons. An electric forklift truck doesn’t produce exhaust fumes, which is healthier both for the driver and the produce in the storehouse. You won’t get excessively high CO2 concentrations in the potato cell, especially when there are a lot of forklift truck movements in the storehouse such as with box storage. In addition, more and more growers are investing in solar panels, which means that they’ll soon have energy that’s cheaper than diesel. Another thing is that the price of electric forklift trucks is almost at the same level as diesel trucks. For example, a large Doosan D335-7 diesel costs £19,950 and its equivalent V20T-7 as an electric version costs £20,250. which he now also owns. Potato cultivation plays a key role here, including the packaging of Agria’s in paper bags for delivery to the fish-and-chip shops in the UK. For a long time the bags were stacked manually, he tells us at the show, partly because manual labour by Polish seasonal workers was readily available. Due to the devaluation of the British pound as a result of the Brexit vote and negotiations, these cheap workers are leaving the UK. In order to keep the costs for work such as stacking bags as low as possible, growers are now investing in automation techniques. Bradley developed his own special gripper for mounting on a robotic arm. The existing grippers are neither precise nor robust enough, according to Bradley. His own design does have those missing features. The gripper is very accurate, it keeps bags intact, is made of strong stainless steel and robust connecting parts, so it lasts a long time. When he’s processing 25 kilogram bags at 40 bags per pallet, the achievable capacity is 12 tons per hour. Bradley hasn’t yet put a price on his design. His first prototypes are now running on his own farm and those of his colleagues in the region, he told us. An increasing number of entrepreneurs in the potato sector are opting for electric power for their forklift trucks. 38 Potato World 2020 • number 2 Pagina 37

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