On Thursday, agricultural robotics and artificial intelligence company Root AI announced new capabilities to its AI-enhanced robotic harvester as well as investments totaling more than $7 million. Its AI-enhanced robotic harvester has demonstrated enhanced dexterity to tackle crops of various shapes and sizes.
In the past, Root AI has provided glimpses of its robo-harvester, known as Virgo, picking ripe tomatoes off the vine. In an indoor agriculture environment, Virgo can be situated on a track in between rows of various crops. As it navigates a greenhouse, the robot leverages a host of sensors as well as artificial intelligence to analyze crop positions and ripeness and then uses a specialized gripper to pick produce once it's ready.
The machine sees its environment in 3D using intelligent motion sensing. This data allows Virgo to determine an optimal route, through vines, leaves, other unripe crops, to pluck its target. As Root AI CEO Josh Lessing explained, Virgo uses more than computer vision to see its environment and plan accordingly.
In recent years, farmers have faced struggles with labor shortages throughout the agriculture industry. In California, more than half (56%) of participating farmers were "unable to hire all the employees they needed for production of their main crop at some point during the past five years," according to a California Farm Bureau Federation report.