The shortage of laborers is a common problem across Europe and has become a growing concern in the fruit and vegetable production sector; therefore, various technology companies have decided to develop harvesting robots that will help the sector. One of them is Fieldworks Robotics, which emerged from the British University of Plymouth.
Fieldworks Robotics has developed a robot that analyzes red fruits, such as raspberries, by artificial vision, and picks them carefully at a rate that can far exceed the one achieved with human labor.
As published by The Guardian, The Sun and The Times, the robot could soon be harvesting up to 25,000 berries per day; 10,000 more than a human worker.
The robot is 1.8 meters long and basically consists of a 3D camera system and a mechanical arm and hand mounted on a wheeled mobility system. It uses artificial vision software to identify the berries and their "hands" have pressure sensors to use only the indispensable strength and avoid damaging the soft fruits when picked.
Developing Robocrop, as it has been named, has cost almost $900,000.
When the robot is operating at full capacity, the clamp takes 10 seconds or less to place each fruit on a tray, sorting them according to their ripeness and leaving them ready to be shipped to supermarkets. The final version, which would go into production in 2020, will have four clamps that will work simultaneously.
In addition to the tests with raspberries that were carried out in a greenhouse of the British horticultural firm Hall Hunters, others have taken place in China with tomatoes and cauliflower.