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New tomato harvest robot GRoW being tested in the greenhouse
With labor costs currently being 30% up to even 50% of the total greenhouse production costs, reducing the amount of it in a greenhouse company is an important topic at the moment – even more if you take the global labor shortage into account. Many companies are working on automotive solutions, having robots taking over the job. One of the new players in the field is MetoMotion. Currently they're looking for hi-tech growers, willing to test their system.
MetoMotion is an Israeli start-up, working on a multi-purpose robotic system to perform labor-intensive tasks in a greenhouse. "This way we want to reduce the limitations and the high costs associated with human labor in greenhouse vegetable production", CEO Adi Nir explains, while showing the system GRoW (Greenhouse Robotic Worker).
The first objective of the company is to create a robotic tomato harvester. "Over 35% of the hi-tech greenhouse acreage globally is filled with tomatoes. This means a potential of 16,000 robots and a market that's over $1 billion", Adi continues.
Currently the patent is pending for the proprietary end-effector. The 3D Vision System is to detect ripe fruit and calculates their location. The system designed to locate a stem without the need for exact data and to cut and catch in a single operation. It will clear away obstacles and is not to damage plant nor fruit. "With GRoW, we've tried to solve a complex problem in a smart, simple and effective manner. The system is designed for a simple operation and a smooth integration into an existing greenhouse infrastructure and practice."
While harvesting in the greenhouse, the system will be generating data on the crop. This way the system can inform a grower on stress in the plant, forecast the yield and help creating work plans. "Automated reports improve the control a grower has on their crop and gives valuable information on the yield distribution. All together, they shouldn't just save up to 50% in labour costs with our system, but also learn more about their crop. We expect the ROI for the grower to be under two years and the extra knowledge comes on top of all this."
To realise all this, the company is currently raising funds: 1.5 million dollar, and another 1 million dollar of funding is to come from government funds. "We want to complete R&D and greenhouse trials and in the end we want to complete the commercial version design." Also they reach out to growers with hi-tech greenhouses, willing to help them test the system.
The plans of the company are ambitious: after the hi-tech market the non hi-tech market is the new target. Then the system is set to do various labor-intensive tasks, such as pruning, monitoring, pollination and de-leafing and in the end also other crops will be investigated. But let's not get ahead of ourselves - where are we now? When can we test the system or buy the machine? "A POC was performed in an commercial greenhouse early this year. Now we're doing the alpha field testings and next year the beta pilots are planned", Adi reveals. "And then we hope to sell the first machines in 2019."
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Publication date: 6/20/2018
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