US farmers continue to be challenged by the availability and price of hand labor to harvest perishable crops, including stone fruit. Growers now have access to robots who simply need a steady source of power to mechanically pick that fruit, eliminating the need for hand crews and ladders in the orchard.
Tevel, an Israel-based company, is working with select fruit growers in the western US to test its platform of flying autonomous robots to pick peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums, pears, and apples. A next generation of harvesting solutions uses tethered drones armed with state-of-the-art artificial intelligence to pick fruit from the trees.
Ittai Marom, US general manager for Tevel, said the technology does not pick fruit at the same rate as hand crews – yet, but it does have other immediate benefits. Immediate benefits of the technology include the ability to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Color picks and the ability to pick fruit based on size can easily be programed into the algorithm. Color and size can be immediately shared through the data platforms. Brix cannot be determined through the system at this time.