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California, US

Robot follows farmworkers as they pick berries

Augean Robotics has designed an automated helper to help farm workers carry the produce they pick. Because farm workers harvesting table grapes in California’s Central Valley in the 45oC August heat have to also wheel some 50 kgs of grapes down the long rows of grapevines. The new robot is designed to do that job instead, leaving the workers free to spend more time picking grapes. quoted Charlie Andersen, CEO of Augean Robotics, as saying: “People spend as much as 20-30% of their time picking in the field actually walking up and down the picked rows.” For farmers, who are struggling find enough labour to pick their crops, a problem that is currently quite pressing, the robot can make labour more productive. For the workers, the robot could make a difficult job slightly less painful and help them earn more.

The electrically powered robot, called Burro, is designed to either follow a farmworker around a farm or to run loops down rows of grapes or berries. In the “follow” mode, it uses an algorithm to recognize a worker. “You approach it and it locks onto you. Then it follows you like a dog,” Andersen says.

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