Pieter runs an agriculture with a colleague, where they grow a little over 100 ha – 20 ha chicory, 20 ha sugar beet, 20 ha potatoes, some weeds and brussels sprout.
It is not easy to grow chicory, but when you do it right you can make profit of it. There are many challenges when growing chicory. For Pieter the biggest challenge is weed. Another challenge is to let the crops germinate optimally, so that the field becomes green in the right way. It takes experience and special care because you seed the crops closely and they need a lot of moisture after seeding. Rain is extremely important for the crops to grow optimally.
It is the first year Pieter and his colleague are using the FarmDroid.
Pieter believes there is a future for chicory. The FarmDroid is a possibility to make the cultivation of chicory easier. The seeding is going very well with the robot. It is extremely accurate, and it looks promising, even better than they had expected.
Another benefit of using the robot is that you only need one machine for the weeding. Farmers normally say that when you grow chicory without herbicides you need 3 different machines. Therefore, using the FarmDroid for chicory is great. You need only one machine to do the job, and then you even can grow the chicory without herbicides.
Considering that the EU wants to reduce the use of chemicals in agriculture, it will become more difficult for farmers to solve the problem with weed. Pieter thinks that it is increasingly important for farmers to think about other ways to control weed and grow their crops.
When you use chemicals to control weed, you keep spraying the field until the weed is gone. The weeds will be gone, but you lose important time of the plants’ growth because they don’t evolve.
The field preparations for the FarmDroid are the same as when you seed with a tractor and a seeder. First, you mark the corner points of the field, then you start the robot, and check how it is working.
Compared to a tractor, you need to pay more attention to the seeding with the robot. In the beginning you walk behind the robot and check how it works. You can adjust the settings to make the seeding perfect.
One of the things that Pieter likes about the robot is that it can work by itself. You can leave it running and do something else. It takes longer for the robot to work through the field, but it does not matter as you do not have to supervise it. It is enough to check up on it occasionally.
It is challenging to grow chicory without chemicals. However, you can do it with mechanical weeding and the robot working in the field.
The support you get from the FarmDroid team is crucial. Pieter has experienced that you can always get help from people, who are specialized in the robot – even from a distance. It does not matter what problem you have they can always help you. They are available around the clock, and they take their time to help you. It is nice to know that you are never on your own.