VDL Groep and VBTI: cooperating on ‘smart, self-learning’ technology
Family-owned industrial company VDL Groep is taking an important step in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). By partnering with Eindhoven-based VBTI, VDL will deploy deep learning technology more intensively in processes, systems and in the production. VDL Groep is taking a minority stake in the AI specialist.
By learning from big data, deep learning algorithms become smarter and better. VBTI's AI technology uses camera systems to collect many images, data which can be used for purposes such as determining when asparagus can best be harvested or estimating the yield of a strawberry harvest. In doing so, important, efficient steps are being taken to make our food system more sustainable, which currently often requires manual work.
VDL Groep President Willem van der Leegte: ‘We offer our customers added value through our high-quality products and services that leverage a combination of technologies, such as mechanics, electronics and software. Automation increasingly plays a supporting role in this endeavour. In this context we see VBTI as an important partner for acceleration in the areas of visual technology and AI.’
VBTI founder Albert van Breemen: ‘This strategic partnership with VDL will enable us to accelerate our growth.’ VBTI is developing a proprietary platform that integrates deep learning technology into applications to optimise visual inspection tasks and automate production lines. The utilised algorithms find the most efficient way to perform production tasks, from folding a box to running an entire assembly line.
VDL Cropteq Robotics has developed and produced an agricultural robot platform called CropTeq. The first version is a robot that cuts leaves from cucumber plants, making combined use of vision technology, robotics, mechatronics, artificial intelligence and knowledge from the agriculture and horticulture sectors. The robot is equipped with technology from VBTI. ‘No two cucumber plants are ever the same,’ Van Breemen explains. ‘Having learned from data, our algorithm tells us exactly where and when to cut leaves from cucumber plants. Moreover, the algorithm adapts to a changing environment, so the robot always performs optimally regardless of the greenhouse, season or plant variety.’
‘VBTI's scientific yet practical approach accelerates our development,’ says managing director of VDL Cropteq Robotics Harrie Schonewille. ‘In a complex environment like a greenhouse, with lots of crop variation, the cooperation with VBTI's specialists is very important for us. VBTI's deep learning platform enables us to accelerate our developments.’
The strategic partnership between VDL and VBTI will see VBTI's smart, self-learning technology deployed more widely at VDL than exclusively in the VDL Foodtech cluster. This could include, for example, predicting when maintenance work needs to be carried out on machines, early detection of any irregularities in production processes or streamlining inventory management, to prevent shortages for example.
VBTI is an AI engineering company founded in 2019. The company develops deep learning technology to make machines and processes smarter for agricultural and manufacturing applications, among others. The headquarters are located in Eindhoven. The growing VBTI team consists of over 20 motivated professionals who use AI to solve engineering problems. VBTI also trains companies and knowledge institutes in deep learning.
About VDL Groep
Strength through cooperation. This is the cornerstone of VDL Groep, the international industrial family business with its headquarters in Brainport Eindhoven. Founded in 1953, almost 70 years ago, the company has been run by the third generation of the Van der Leegte family since 2017. VDL Groep has over 15,000 employees and is active in 19 countries. The group encompasses 106 closely cooperating operating companies, each with its own specialism.
The activities of these companies can be summarised in the ‘five worlds of VDL’: Science Technology & Health, Mobility, Energy & Sustainability, Infratech and Foodtech. VDL Groep's combined annual turnover in 2021 was €4.995 billion.