Wireless terminals: The perfect solution for PowerGrow

PowerGrow is a company which was set up 18 months ago near the Dutch town of Aalsmeer. The company, which is a member of the Rainbow Group, grows 27 acres of sweet peppers. One of the revolutionary new systems to be installed at PowerGrow is the P-Plus system with wireless terminals for labour and harvest registration.

Sem van Zijl is very pleased with the wireless terminals. One of the benefits of the system is that it automatically registers the number of sweet peppers harvested. This works as follows. A worker plucks the peppers and deposits them in a drop tube, where they slide past an optic photocell. This photocell counts each pepper and communicates this amount to the P-Plus terminal on the harvesting trolley. P-Plus then uses this amount to calculate the worker’s performance bonus.

The peppers slide out of the drop tube onto a conveyor belt installed in each of the gutters. When a worker has finished plucking a plant, the peppers are transported to another conveyor belt in the middle aisle, which carries the peppers to the processing area.

The wireless terminals can also be used to determine the location of the harvesting trolleys in the glasshouse. When a harvesting trolley enters an aisle, the trolley’s RFID scans the aisle number. By counting the number of revolutions made the by the pulse wheel, the system can determine the trolley’s position in the aisle. These data are then transmitted directly to the P-Plus central database. Using these data, P-Plus is able to display the trolley’s position on a floor plan of the glasshouse in real-time.

‘We don’t use this feature as often as we first thought we would’, said Sem. ‘P-Plus requires so little user intervention that we spend most of our time in the glasshouse, rather than at the computer. We recently also set up the performance bonus feature, which has had a great effect on worker motivation. Work has really become a competition. In order to enable workers to get used to performance-related pay, we’ve just done a 2-week trial run. We will actually start paying the bonuses next week.’    

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