The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) offers an innovation program called the ZIM, which is primarily targeted at the broad German Mittelstand (SMEs). Its aim is to foster the innovative flair and competitiveness of small and medium-sized companies. This year’s annual ZIM event again included an SME Innovation Day, which was staged on the grounds of the BMWi and was co-organized by AIF Projekt GmbH. In his opening speech, Sigmar Gabriel, the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, described ZIM-backed excellence as a shining example of innovation, an attribute that is valid throughout the world. Being one of the 350 exhibitors at the annual SME Innovation Day means walking proud in markets as a pioneer with all the hallmarks of a “process innovator.” For the third year in succession, Rüdiger Jung and his team at the Mannheim-based Steinbeis Innovation Center for System Solutions in Measuring and Automation Technology were eligible to take part in the event and showcase their special exhibit: a solution developed in collaboration with research partners as part of a project backed by the BMWi.
The team has developed a mobile hop picking machine in collaboration with the engineering firm WOLF Anlagen Technik GmbH & Co. KG. The machine increases the efficiency of hop harvesting. The solution developed by the partners makes a huge difference to the load placed on picking equipment during the picking process.
The machine can be used as a stand-alone unit, it can be retrofitted as a separate module on existing picking machines, or it can be integrated into the new generation of picking machines, thus allowing hop pickers from any producer to plan a reliably productive harvest without interruptions. The Steinbeis experts designed the construction and rotational velocity of transportation and picking drums on the harvesting unit to work precisely and in harmony, so that as little damage as possible would be caused to the hops during picking. The umbels and bines of the hops are left completely unscathed and are not crushed like on other machines. The machine picks the hop flower, small bracts, and entire bines so neatly and precisely that the entire raw material can be quickly transported away, removing the load on the machine.
The machine was also popular with visitors to the SME Innovation Day. Sebastian Weber, sales representative of WOLF Anlagen Technik, did a good job outlining the many merits of the new system to the German parliamentarian Erich Irlstorfer, who was accompanied by the official technical consultant Mavin Kotowenko and a trade delegation from Taiwan.
Both project partners were satisfied with the outstanding success of the exhibition in Berlin and are similarly pleased with the introduction of the hop picker to the market. More collaborative research projects are now being planned between WOLF Anlagen Technik and Steinbeis.