Lapalme Mechanical Design is preparing to commercialize its SAMI (for système agricole multifonctionnel intelligent or intelligent multifunctional agricultural system) machine next summer. The device consists of a farm tractor pushing a machine where robotic arms are installed on both sides, picking vegetables.
Tests in broccoli fields with a machine with four robotic arms have shown promising results, according to Éric Lapalme, president of the Varennes, Montérégie-based company. Next summer, Lapalme plans to market four machines that would contain about 20 robotic arms, perhaps more if farmers express the need. Lapalme estimates that one robotic arm replaces one worker in the field.
"There are many growers who tell me they would like to expand their vegetable production and decrease their field crop production, but they can't do that because they are not able to find more labour," said Lapalme. "So, that limits the development of vegetable farms in Quebec enormously."