Kaam project 2023 7

Unique sorting and cleaning line
for Van Kaam Tuinplanten

Van Kaam Tuinplanten B.V. focuses on growing and trading garden plants. To do this as well and efficiently as possible, entrepreneur Thomas van Kaam has automated various processes over the years. Recently, in collaboration with Ed Schalke from Maasdijk, a custom-made sorting and cleaning line was added.

From Hooge Zwaluwe in Brabant, Van Kaam Tuinplanten supplies various types of shrubs to garden centers, wholesalers, and exporters. "I've been involved with plants since I was young," says owner Thomas van Kaam. "In the past, we grew more types, but because that was too labor-intensive, we decided to specialize. In terms of numbers, we have been cultivating more and more plants in recent years."

By automating in time, Van Kaam managed to handle the company's growth well, he indicates. "We've been at this location in Hooge Zwaluwe for a good eight years now, where we have plants both in the greenhouse and in the open air. Together with Ed Schalke, we have made significant strides in automation. We already knew each other; I had previously bought a robot from him to place pots on buffer carts. When we wanted to take the next step by replacing that robot with a buffer belt, Ed helped us again."

After that first buffer belt for potting, a delivery belt was added. And when a new shed was built for the company, Ed Schalke also helped with rebuilding the existing potting line and installing additional conveyor belts, says Van Kaam. "Last year, a completely new line was added for sorting and cleaning plants. Our delivery peak is in the spring, but the peak for potting is also in the spring. Therefore, the belts are not available for cleaning plants while potting. Because we didn't want to do those activities on the ground inside or outside the greenhouse, we chose to add a new line."

Shuffling and Puzzling
The new line was designed in mutual consultation and eventually custom-made by Ed Schalke for the nursery. "In such a process, several versions of the drawing go back and forth until everything is just right. Only then do we start building," says Schalke. Van Kaam adds, "We shuffled and puzzled with the space to achieve the best result. This allows us to work at height now, and we are inside, so dry and out of the wind. That makes it more pleasant for our people and much more efficient."

Specifically, a peeling belt was installed, where pots are placed by means of a forklift. The plants then come to a pruning machine, which was added so that pruning can be done on the same line during the quiet months. If the machine is not in use, the plants go straight to the cleaning area. Here, the plants can be cleaned or placed directly on carts. The plants that remain on the belt go to the height sorting, where large and small plants are automatically separated. "We also had a conveyor belt installed under the cleaning area to remove plant waste during work. This saves a lot of sweeping afterwards," says Van Kaam.

New and Unique
Ed Schalke is proud of the end result. "It is fully customized; all the belts are non-standard sizes. Moreover, the cleaning section with the automatic waste removal is entirely newly conceived and therefore unique. And we managed to realize all this in a relatively small space. That makes this project special." Van Kaam is also satisfied with the new line, which is easy to operate and can be used flexibly. "We thought it out well at the front end, and Ed Schalke realized it in a good way."

And it doesn't stop there, says the entrepreneur. "Ed Schalke also takes care of maintenance and helps in case of malfunctions. The lines of communication are very short. We can send photos or videos via WhatsApp so that the experts can look at them immediately. Often, problems can be quickly and easily solved remotely, making it unnecessary to come on-site at high costs. It's very nice to work together in this way."