"The system developed by Alexander van der Lely and Karel van den Berg demonstrates how high-tech advances can sustainably assist the agricultural sector,” said EPO President António Campinos about the nomination “And they have enhanced market uptake by licensing their technology, building a company that is competitive on a global stage”.
Together, Alexander van der Lely and Karel van den Berg are driving a new approach to the dairy business, one that focusses on “cow-friendly” automation and making farming operations more efficient. Karel van den Berg grew up on a farm and knew that for robotic milking to be successful, it would need to be accepted by the cows as being part of the barn. “I started from the principle that the cow needs freedom within the milking pen; it should not be fixed or restrained,” he says, adding that “when a cow feels good, has no stress and is offered everything – that’s when it produces the most milk”.
Innovating (for) agribusiness
In 1985, Karel van den Berg and his team of engineers began developing the robotic milking system. One year later, Alexander van der Lely’s father filed patent applications for the first two milking inventions, one of which is still in use in the current system. Alexander van der Lely studied production and management engineering in Zurich before joining the family-run business in 1995, when he was tasked with improving the technical performance of the robotic milking system. Although the earliest Astronaut systems were commercially available in the mid-90s, the agribusiness was initially reluctant to use these robots. “One reason why this innovation took a long time to market was because we developed the machine to be operational 24 hours a day which is a huge leap in managing a farm. We also needed the time to convince farmers that this automation was the way forward and to build up the necessary service network.” Alexander van der Lely recalls.
Today, the company is a pioneer in the robotic milking: Alexander van der Lely has been named on 47 European patents for advances in milking and agricultural automation, and over his 35-year career, van den Berg has been named as an inventor on 267 European patents, many of which have equivalents in other territories too.
More information about the nomination and EPO
For more information about the nomination and to vote, visit the EPO website
Sept. 5, 2019
Enhanced Lely Calm calf feeder for optimal hygiene
Lely announces its enhanced automated calf feeding system, the Lely Calm. Key improvements of the new Lely Calm are focused on optimal hygiene. A hygiene box and tailor-made detergents result in a fully automated and thorough cleaning process, leaving no space for bacteria that could harm the calf’s health.
Sept. 2, 2019
Alexander van der Lely to become chairman of the Supervisory Board,
André van Troost appointed as new CEO of Lely
Maassluis, 2 September 2019 – An important change will take place in the management of Dutch family business Lely in the coming months. From January 1, the current CEO, Alexander van der Lely, will become the chairman of a newly formed Supervisory Board for Lely. This Supervisory Board must ensure that Lely remains a healthy family business. The current Vice President Customer Care, André van Troost, is appointed as new CEO of the Lely Group as of 1 January 2020. The Executive Board team remains unchanged.