Dutch, German, and Belgian blueberry farmers join forces
December 7, 2018

Twelve ambitious blueberry growers from the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium have joined forces. Through their joint R&D company, they want to accelerate innovation in the area of smart farming and robotized harvesting and pest control. They also want to make this more accessible. 

Co-creation with educational and knowledge institutions and progressive companies from, for example, high-tech and manufacturing industries is essential to achieving these goals. Blueberry Innovators represents a cultivation area of almost 300 hectares. Its shareholders are active in the breeding, production, and marketing of blueberries.

Using innovation to realize a future-proof business model 

The Netherlands is one of the top five European countries with the most significant acreage of blueberries. The importance of processing and product innovation is enormous. This innovation is needed to not only remain a front-runner but also stay progressive.

Erik van de Vin, Blueberry Innovators' Cluster Manager says, “In the near future we will have to deal with a number of challenges. These will be in the fields such as upscaling, labor, efficiency, and crop protection. Then there is also sustainability, biodiversity, and soil diversity, and water and product quality", he explains.

"In order to focus on these areas, mutual cooperation is crucial, and innovations are essential. Within Blueberry Innovators, the growers are actually 'at the wheel.' All our innovation activities are aimed at realizing a future-proof, economically sustainable business model for the participating growers.” 

External innovation division within the Innoveins' ecosystem

The twelve participating blueberry growers have chosen to amalgamate their mutual need in the area of research and development in their own R&D company. This R&D company is an external innovation division of their companies, Here, products and services in the field of automated harvesting and pest control, as well as smart farming, can be developed further and made ready for the market.

The farmers are legally organized in a closed partnership. This means each grower is a share holder in Blueberry Innovators. A few farmers have been chose as company directors. Leon Schrijnwerkers is one of Blueberry Innovators' share holders. He says, "The developments in the areas of robotics, big data, sensors, self-driving vehicles, and vision are zooming ahead.

"By working together with other growers and technicians within the Innoveins' ecosystem we are much better able to implement these innovations in a real way. We can make them accessible for our own cultivation and breeding companies. Moreover, in this way, we ensure our development programs are more efficient and less expensive."

CO-creation is the key to success 

Blueberry Innovators have already gotten started on their first innovation activities. These will be scaled up next year. A study into automated weed detection and recognition was initiated earlier this year. This research is being done in cooperation with the Arnhem and Nijmegen University of Applied Science.

It is expected that a number of partnership agreements will be ratified in 2019. These will be focused on, for example, the realization of a harvesting robot and the application of big data in blueberry cultivation.

CO-creation is central in all of Blueberry Innovators' development programs. The cooperation between farmers, technicians, and researchers ensures that innovative products and services do not just 'do what they must.' It must also be implemented in the cultivation company in a commercially attractive manner. Blueberry Innovators would like to make contact with organizations who have the same ambitions.