Packaging Delicate Herbs at Rosborg Greenhouse, Denmark

OnRobot: Flexible Packaging Line Case Study

It takes great finesse to cultivate and deliver delicious, fresh herbs. It takes intelligent automation to ensure that production is efficient, competitive, and creates a good work environment. That is why Denmark’s largest producer of herbs and mini plants, Rosborg Food Holding, chose to invest in sensitive, flexible robot grippers from OnRobot to handle their plants.

The use of herbs dates back to at least 4000 years ago in Babylon. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks developed and refined the cultivation of herbs for use in the emerging medical sciences and as culinary delights. In the 21st century, robotics technology is increasingly contributing to the taste, smell and freshness of our food.

Inside the 120,000 square meters of greenhouses in Odense, Denmark, mint, dill, tarragon, miniature roses and other small delicate plants grow in an advanced production facility equipped with state-of-the-art technology. A total of 130 employees produce, pack,  manage and sell 28 million herb plants and 12 million mini flowers annually under the product names Gloria Mundi, Økologihaven and Eurostar plants. To accomodate a growing demand and a wide range of products, as well as seasonal fluctuations, they streamlined and automated their production line.

Reducing monotonous work

“We are continuously working to improve the productivity and efficiency of our processes. The automation solution we implemented relieved our employees of monotonous, physically demanding tasks that they would prefer to avoid anyway. Robot technology also helps us reduce the amount of overtime and temporary workers we need,” says Henning Jørgensen, Partner and Operations Manager, Rosborg Food Holding.

The Danish nursery has produced spices and mini flowers for both retail and restaurants since 1980. In 2013 a new owner began the process of radically modernizing the company’s entire production. The new owners invested 37 million Danish crowns in new high-efficiency greenhouses equipped with automation technology and robots. At the same time, Rosborg expanded its range of products to meet the growing demand for herbs not traditionally used in Scandinavian cuisine. In addition to robots and employees, they also employ 10 different kinds of beneficial insects, which eliminate pests on the plants in the greenhouses naturally.

Robot hand with fingertip sensation

One of the latest investments in automation is a flexible packaging line featuring a cobot from Universal Robots, fitted with an RG6 gripper from OnRobot. The two “fingers” of the robot gripper have built-in intelligence and advanced technology that mimics the way humans instinctively use our sense of touch when we grasp things and move them.

The automated packaging solution is so intuitive to use that staff without robot experience easily can switch the solution to packing other types of products by changing settings on the robotic arm’s touch screen. The RG6 robot gripper’s software is installed in the robotic arm similar to how you install an app on a smartphone.

“We were looking for a gripper to lift herbs and flowers gently without squashing them. We chose an RG6 gripper because of its wide and gentle grip, as well as its ability to be precise and flexible. Our new solution with the cobot and gripper automates the task of folding cardboard boxes and placing cut herbs into the boxes. We were looking for a quick return on investment. We already have our next project lined up which is to buy another cobot and gripper to feed a cutting machine that cuts the herbs. The arm and gripper will locate and gently grab the plant, then turn to place them on the line to the cutting machine,” explains Henning Jørgensen.