An important disease in many crops is mildew. Current horticultural practices rely on intensive pesticide use to counter it. However, the use of chemical crop protection results in spray residues on the harvested product and mildew infections cannot always be prevented. Scientific research showed that UV-C light has the potential to become a sustainable alternative for chemical mildew control. The application of UV-C still need to be optimized and automation is required to allow introduction in horticulture. UV-ROBOT will try to tackle these issues and has three main goals:
- Develop robots for autonomous mildew control
- Integrate UV-C in current IPM strategies
- Implement the innovation by growers
In the course of the project we will develop, test and demonstrate cost-effective UV-C robots to control mildew in three types of crops:
- Spherical: strawberry
- Vertical: tomato and cucumber
- Horizontal: lettuce and basil
Horticultural experts in Belgium and the UK will together find ways to incorporate UV-C in current IPM (Integrated Pest Management) strategies of each crop. Belgian expertise in automation and French expertise in data analysis will jointly develop innovative robots that can autonomously apply UV-C. On top, the co-creation of innovative sensors for automatic mildew monitoring by a UK partner specialized in e-nose development will reduce the farmers’ workload and ensure tight disease control.
At the end of the project the developed robots will be available for growers with a user-friendly interface and a crop specific implementation strategy. Demonstration across the NWE region and extensive communication during and after the project will inform growers to ensure innovation roll-out. We hereby aim to lower growers’ dependence on chemical crop protection and thereby reduce pesticide use and spray residues in horticulture across North-West Europe.