We’ve all been brought up with the notion that, in order to be healthy, we need to eat five fruits and vegetables every day. What is less known, however, is the fact that humanity will probably run short of these in 2050, when there won’t be enough to feed a world population of 9 billion people. Sure, pesticides are a solution, but their misuse and imprecise application are having increasingly notorious side effects on health and the environment. Enter Pulverizadores Fede, a company active in the production of agricultural machinery which, with the help of EU funding under the H3O (Healthy crop, Healthy environment, Healthy finances ... through Optimization) project, recently developed a completely new generation of sprayers. Unlike existing alternatives, these sprayers can adjust airflow and recommend spray volume in accordance with the characteristics of the canopy and the pest or crop treatment needed. The icing on the cake: H3O sprayers can connect to a private cloud through which farm management teams can send treatment orders to the sprayer and supervise the treatment. This has spearheaded a new generation of sprayers known as ‘smartomisers’. ‘One of our most important values is application efficiency, leading to direct Return on investment (ROI) for growers,’ explains Dr Lars T. Berger, Director of Innovation at Pulverizadores Fede and coordinator of H3O. ‘At the same time, application efficiency means less crop protection products in the environment, which explains the triple win at the heart of our project: healthy crop, healthy environment and healthy finances through optimisation.’ So far, around 65 H3O sprayers have been delivered to pilot customers in different countries. Dr Berger says that they were all very happy with H3O’s capacity to provide precise information about the crop protection process, as well as the possibility of supervising the spraying wherever they are. These sprayers also confirmed a significant reduction in pesticides and fuel use, along with noticeable noise reduction and time savings. ‘The estimation of annual savings in pesticides for a 900-hectare fruit trees plantation is EUR 340 000, and one of our main Spanish clients who owns a fruit plantation of 2 000 hectares has estimated that he will save around 756 000 per year,’ Dr Berger enthuses, continuing: ‘Fuel savings are also remarkable, with one of the first users of the system stating that he managed to save over 25 % in fuel.’ Laboratory and field trials were also run by well-known research institutions over the course of the project. They revealed that H3O is capable of reducing fuel consumption by 55 %, noise contamination by 15 dBA, and potential sediment drift by 48 %. Last but not least, the extra investment to acquire a high-end sprayer has a payback period of less than two years. As a result, Pulverizadores Fede has been piling up awards: Technical Novelty Awards at the International Agricultural Machinery Fair (FIMA) in 2014 and 2016; and the Outstanding Technical Innovation Award and Blue Award at the International Agricultural Machinery Fair (EIMA) in 2016 in Bologna. ‘The H3O range of sprayers is very likely the most awarded spraying technology for specialty crops in the world,’ says Dr Berger. Now that the project has been completed, Pulverizadores Fede will focus on its objective of leading market-oriented research and development in 3D/speciality crop services. And whilst competition is starting to catch up, Dr Berger is confident that the company will continue to stand out through continuous innovation and customer co-creation, while protecting its results with a series of registered and unregistered rights such as patents, industrial designs, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. Follow-up projects are also on the table: ‘We are very open to cooperating with academic and industrial players, as well as other public and private stakeholders to successfully execute follow-up projects with clear customer focus and obvious environmental and socio-economic benefits. This is in line with our H30 motto,’ Dr Berger says.
H3O, Pulverizadores Fede, agriculture, sprayer, smartomiser, crop, cloud, pesticide, pest