Robot fruit picking technology will be efficient and affordable for farmers in a few years

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Robot technology is almost readily available for harvesting fruit on Victoria’s farms. In order to alleviate the shortage of seasonal workers, several researchers and scientists are working hard to update technology for farmers.

Chao Chen of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Monash University is leading research into the development of a robot that uses cameras to scan trees to detect fruit without damaging the tree.

“Currently, he can harvest an apple in about 7 seconds – depending on the distance traveled – and it takes about 4 to 5 seconds for a human to pick an apple,” Dr Chen said.

“The robot takes pictures and maps the tree and detects the fruit. This information is how the robot picks the fruit.”

Dr Chen says that the apple harvest success rate is around 85%.

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Demand needed to make robots affordable

According to Monash University, the current cost of materials for a robot is around $ 80,000, but the cost is expected to decrease as demand increases.

Vito Mancini is a citrus grower in Griffith, New South Wales.

The arm of a Californian robotic apple picker tested in a Victoria orchard.(

Provided: Dan Steere

)

Robots are being tested on his property and he says it’s not about if, but when the technology will be used on farms at all levels.

“I don’t think it’s an impossible task, I think robotics will become an assisted part of the harvest. It’s pretty impressive to see,” Mr. Mancini said.

“For farmers, there is some fear that this will allow the bigger farmers to grow, as well as the corporate sector, and their fears are well founded.

Hunter Jay is the Managing Director of Ripe Robotics and is working on the second version of a fruit picking robot.

“The first version picked fruit sometimes, but not always, and often broke down,” he said.

“So we are building the next generation that will be 10 times faster and hopefully not break down as much.”

His robot works on a suction system which sucks up the fruit and detaches it from its branch.

“I hope the technology will be ready in a year and scale up in a few years and be applied to the majority of orchards,” Jay said.

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New technology makes it easier to pick fruit


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