“We can handle every product in any shape, size, and weight from automotive parts to salad and insects"

“We’re still in the learning phase to see how we can apply our material handling solutions into vertical farming. Then it’s a matter of finding the right processes of where it fits. I believe we can support far more applications than many may believe. Often an overhead solution is not even considered, and that is where we come in. We like to challenge our customers to think outside the box and see the benefits of choosing an overhead solution. Still, for certain applications, our solution doesn’t fit,” says Patrick Djerf, Business Development Manager at OCS.

OCS, the Swedish conveyor systems provider, helps vertical farmers maximize production through automation. One of their customers, Swedish vertical farm Ljusgårda, increased production from 2 to 60-tonnes of salad after installing an automated system for growing and handling salad. This, combined with extensive experience in material handling in a range of different industries, leads OCS into new markets.

Patrick Djerf

OCS’ ambition is to come in contact with new (kinds of) farmers and bring their competence in material handling. As most of their experience comes from the complex automotive industry, the company has gained valuable experience in handling any material.

“We handle buffers of dashboards, bumpers, and big elements that can weigh up to 1000s of kilos. We can handle every product in any shape, size, and weight, from automotive parts to salad and insects,” Patrick notes.

Delight ‘material’ handling
OCS is currently working together with a Europeaninsect farm that wants them to handle 2m3 cages, with the weight of only 1-3 kgs per cage as they only contain insects. In that case, thousands of cages will be handled on a daily basis to produce large amounts of proteins that can be processed for food. At the same time, lighting and humidity need to be at the correct levels in order to keep the insects alive, using fabric cages to prevent them from escaping.

“Coming into the insect industry includes a number of hanging cages that create volume and scalability. We find insect farming very interesting as our hanging conveyors can really play a role in this booming industry, especially when it comes to the flexibility and precision of our conveyors. We really want to get a better understanding of it, so we’re always open for a discussion with market players to see if we can create a win-win situation,” Patrick affirms.

When and why to automate?
In order to make a large-scale facility profitable, automation needs to be implemented. There are, for instance, a few factors that drive innovation. Firstly, reducing labor costs. Moving things around manually isn’t efficient when it’s up to 1000s of trays and cages. Depending on the geographics, either cheap labor or automation has to be applied to smoothen the process.

In the long run, farmers can save money and increase productivity through automation, as it allows production to run 24/7 and in any weather condition. The automation investment needs, of course, to have a reasonable ROI in the end.

When farming takes place in a high-cost country where the cost of labor is high, automation can play an even bigger role. “We can play a role in both worlds, as we have fully automated lines, driven by motors and fully controlled. In other words, we can offer manual overhead conveyors where operators pull/push the carriers or a fully automated system that dramatically decrease the need for labor. For companies that start with a manual solution, the system can always be scaled up/automated at a later stage.

From an ergonomics perspective, carrying heavy boxes is definitely an issue. By eliminating that risk, OCS can help reduce the need for labor and, at the same time, maximize production per m2 as the density can be increased as isles aren’t needed in-between. Automation helps to remove isles, enabling growers to optimally use their floor space to work or grow in multiple rooms at once.

The OCS technology is unique and comes with a very low cost of ownership (TCO). It is both energy efficient and has a long lifetime with minimal maintenance. Both labor and maintenance costs may otherwise be one of the greatest economical burdens for growers today.

For more information:
Patrick Djerf, Business development manager


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