The robot uses an AI neural network to identify sick tulip bulbs, and root out disease from the Netherlands’ flower fields

Scarlett Evans, Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

March 25, 2024

1 Min Read
Autonomous tulip-picking robot, Theo, working at night
Autonomous tulip-picking robot, Theo, working at nightH2L Robotics, Allan Visser

An AI-powered robot is helping Dutch tulip growers spot diseased flowers in their fields, supporting plant health and saving them time and money. 

The robot, Theo, was developed by H2L robotics and takes its name from a retired flower “sickness spotter” Theo van der Voort from WAM Pennings farm in the Netherlands. 

Theo autonomously drives through tulip fields, using inbuilt cameras and an AI neural network to monitor tulips and spot telltale signs of disease on the leaves. The robot then destroys the diseased bulbs which are separated from healthy ones after they have been harvested.

“The heart of the machine is the knowledge that we put into the AI model,” said Erik de Jong, managing director of H2L Robotics. “The knowledge comes from tulip farmers. So we use the knowledge of the tulip farmers, we combine it into an AI model.”

The virus Theo is looking for targets flower growth, stunting development and weakening the bulb, ultimately preventing the plant from flowering again. 

With tulip fields a significant tourist attraction for the region, protecting the plants is crucial for farmers and sickness spotters play an important role in maintaining these fields. By automating this often labor-intensive task, farmers hope to more effectively tackle the virus. 

Related:Customizable Agricultural Robot Can Tackle Labor Shortages

As part of these efforts, around 45 Theo robots have been deployed to tulip fields across the Netherlands. 

H2L first launched its prototype tulip-spotting robot in North Holland in March 2020 and has been collecting data on its performance to inform future iterations.

About the Author(s)

Scarlett Evans

Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

Scarlett Evans is the assistant editor for IoT World Today, with a particular focus on robotics and smart city technologies. Scarlett has previous experience in minerals and resources with Mine Australia, Mine Technology and Power Technology. She joined Informa in April 2022.

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