With years of research behind them, fruit farmers are turning to robots to help with harvest amid a human worker shortage.
How do the robots work?
The robots roll on tracks between rows of strawberries grown on tables under poly tunnels. Dozens of cameras are built into them, allowing them to take 360 images of each strawberry, to determine its ripeness, weight, and measure 17 potential defects in the fruit. The robots have two arms, which decide if a berry is the right size and shape to pick its stem. The strawberry is then placed in a punnet or rejected into a different tray. These robots also collect data from the images they take, to help with predicting crop yields and the amount of fruit that needs harvesting in the future.
Eva Thilderkvist, employee the robots’ developers, said the robots work alongside humans. “They’re not a replacement for your workforce. It’s peace of mind for growers in case you can’t get the workforce you need”.
Night picking potential
Trials have started in the UK to see if these robots can successfully pick berries at night, as picking fruit during cooler temperatures considerably extends its shelf life. Ms Thilderkvist said this would be a game changer for the industry. “Each of these arms are equipped with LED lights, as well as a few more lights on the chassis. As they go along they can identify the berries in a much better way than a human could possibly do.”
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