Although Australia’s Central Queensland University has developed the world's first mango auto-harvester, it will still not replace manual picking. Professor Kerry Walsh and his team's auto-harvester has been trialled at Groves Grown Fruit farm in Yeppoon.
The prototype machine takes approximately five seconds to harvest a fruit from detection to placement, according to farm owner Ian Groves. Professor Walsh said the auto-harvester has the potential to solve the major labour force issues facing the mango industry.
The harvester is a component of an integrated system which will ensure farmers know exactly how many fruits are on their trees, when they will be in perfect condition for the consumer, and when to employ the right number of people for picking and packing. It will not totally replace manual fruit harvesting.
The end goal is to save costs and improve productivity on farm, while driving consumer demand by ensuring a top-quality eating experience every time. At present, the harvester has a 75 percent efficiency in automatically identifying and picking fruits in view.
Professor Walsh hopes to improve its performance to more than 90 percent efficiency, to increase speed, and to refine its construction to reduce cost. The next phase of research will investigate options for it to be mounted on a terrestrial drone to operate autonomously, at faster speeds, and higher accuracies.