A robotic apple picker is inching closer to commercialization and possible relief from labor issues for the nation’s apple growers. Abundant Robotics is in the process of perfecting a prototype that can pick one apple every one to two seconds, possibly giving the apple industry a solution to labor challenges. Company leaders tell Farm Journal’s AgWeb that the goal is to have the product ready in time for the 2018 harvest. The company has spent the last few years working on the prototype machines that use a robotic arm and vision system that can recognize apples with 95 percent accuracy. The machines use vacuum force to pluck the apples from the tree, as to not bruise or cut the fruit. However, the machine will need to pick faster and longer than humans to succeed, according to the company. Orchards generate around $200 billion of fresh fruit each year, but manual labor needs have remained unchanged for the past century.
From the National Association of Farm Broadcasting news service.
A vacuum picker under development by Abundant Robotics of Menlo Park, California, has the apple industry closer than it’s ever been to fully automating harvest — a potential game changer for growers and the industry at large. Abundant co-founders Dan Steere and Curt Salisbury talk about the latest trials during a demonstration in a Central Washington orchard in 2016. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)
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