The Huelva-based company Agrobot has made a name for itself in agricultural robotics and reached the fields of California, US, which is home to the largest strawberry multinationals in the world. "We work with firms that reach 2,000 million dollars in revenue a year. They own huge lands where any type of machinery can enter without any problems," says Juan Bravo, CEO of Agrobot. "Also, there's a real labor shortage problem. It's very hard to find workers in California willing to pick strawberries, and even more so when immigration is being limited."
Agrobot has brought the AgrobotSW 6010 strawberry harvester there. By means of artificial intelligence, this machine is capable of picking only the fruit that is ripe. It has 30 robotic arms that feature a camera with artificial vision which detects the fruit's degree of ripeness. It collects between 10 and 30 images per second. In this way, the algorithms can confirm, by means of a real-time morphological and color analysis, if the strawberry complies with the parameters set in terms of size, thickness and color.
"The artificial intelligence is the one selecting what should be harvested, while the robotics cuts the fruit's stem in just four seconds and deposits it on a conveyor belt. Later, humans will sort the strawberries and place them in boxes for their distribution," says Juan Bravo.
Unlike in the cases of apples or bananas, "strawberries undergo no subsequent ripening, so the fruit can only be harvested when it is fully mature, and then it is also more delicate." With this robotic system, it is possible to harvest 100 kilos in 100 days.
Innovation in simplicity
The success of Agrobot is precisely down to in its simplicity. "The vehicle doesn't have cutting-edge technology, but it is manufactured with robust materials that can be easily replaced." Since the robotic arms are independent from one another, the machine can continue to work in case a mistake is made. "The advantage of this model is that it is functional and simple and therefore relatively cheap," says Bravo.
Excellent reception in the US
The Spanish Agrobot arrived in California after winning the Open Mind Award from the Government of Andalusia, whose prize was to travel to Silicon Valley. The tests in the open ground were carried out in Watsonville, a town in the state of California that produces 40% of the strawberries in this state.