Manual harvesting has several drawbacks. Cold weather wreaks havoc on the harvesting period, pushing the work of seasonal workers either forwards or backwards. This results in hired personnel running up costs while waiting out the delay, or a lack of available workers if harvest begins too early. Furthermore, harvesting can only be carried out during the day. To address these issues, the EU-funded DASH (Demonstration of the AutoSpar harvesting machine used for white and violet asparagus) project set out to develop a fully functional, reliable, automatic asparagus harvesting machine. Project partners had initially aimed to build on the automatic and selective harvesting machine prototype for white and violet asparagus created during a previous EU initiative but which was not ready for commercial use. However, they decided to build a new prototype by implementing novel technological solutions and technical improvements. The prototype underwent rigorous testing during the 2014 and 2015 harvesting seasons. In terms of performance, 80 % of existing or available asparagus stalks were successfully harvested. Off-season demonstrations were also carried out at three exhibitions. A business plan focused on the commercialisation of the prototype. It also contained an analysis of material costs and how to reduce them, along with a marketing plan that highlighted potential market barriers and competition. DASH delivered an automatic asparagus harvesting machine that is expected to go to market in the next two years. Asparagus farmers and producers stand to benefit from a solution that no longer depends solely on manual labour and does not rely on the time of day, the elements and other external forces.
Asparagus, automated harvesting machine, manual harvesting, DASH