It’s harvest season in the Northern hemisphere, so farmers head into the fields to gather the fruit of their hard labor. But now, robots are along for the ride.
A few days ago, a boxy yellow robot rolled through the rows of yellow pepper patches in a Belgian greenhouse, spotting and picking the ripened fruit. Moving along the tall leafy plants, the robot paused whenever its camera detected a ripe yellow pepper and then with a quick move of a blade, cut the stem, grabbing the fruit with a palm-like catcher.
Named SWEEPER, the robot is a result of a collaboration between Israeli, Dutch, Swedish, and Belgian scientists—a complex piece of equipment aimed to help farmers and agricultural workers in the harvesting process. Peppers aren’t the only items SWEEPER should be able to handle. With some modification, similar robots can be devised to gather apples or tomatoes, for example.
Some argue that these robots may cause job losses for agricultural workers, but the reality is more complex. As the climate changes, heat waves intensify, and humidity increases, working long hours in the field is becoming more unhealthy, and in some cases dangerous, for humans. Even greenhouse conditions, tailored to the plants’ needs, may in some cases be too hot or humid for people.
According to reported data from 1992 to 2006, 68 crop workers in the U.S. died from exposure to environmental heat. In essence, toiling in the fields is a hard job that will become even more difficult as climate change progresses, so humans will likely have to rely on robots to do some farming. “We don’t expect these robots to replace people,” says Prof. Yael Edan, head of BGU’s ABC Robotics Initiative, whose team worked on the SWEEPER robot. “We think they would help with tasks that are difficult for people to do.”
To teach SWEEPER to identify peppers and harvest them gently without damaging them or the plant they grew on required artificial intelligence and machine learning. Unlike humans, who can discern the colorful fruit among the green foliage quite easily, even in somewhat dim lighting, robots have a much more difficult time doing so. Polina Kurtser, BGU Ph.D. student in computer vision and robotics, says that the team had to use thousands of pictures of peppers to teach the robot to identify the vegetables.
The harvesting arm, called a gripper or manipulator, went through many integrations, including pulling, cutting and dropping the fruit into a bag, as well as other harvesting variations—to devise the most efficient and safest model.
“The part of the gripper that goes into the plant is very compact; it’s quite a smart design that prevents the knife from harming the plant,” says Boaz Arad, BGU Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science.
It took the team about three and a half years to arrive at the current model, he adds. At the end, during its latest greenhouse demonstration, SWEEPER passed the test.
The BGU team is developing other agricultural innovations too. One of them is a smart pesticide sprayer that would calculate the exact amount of chemicals needed to keep plants healthy. Rather than spraying abundantly, the machine would target the chemicals, thereby reducing people’s exposure to them.
Learn more: BGU Researchers Are Changing the Farming Culture
The Latest on: Robotic farming
via Google News
The Latest on: Robotic farming
- Kraken to Supply Thrusters to Leader in Robotic Net Cleaners for the Aquaculture Industryon November 27, 2019 at 4:34 pm
Under the agreement, MPI will purchase RIM-driven thrusters and control systems for use in MPI’s new JetMaster automated cage cleaners used for fish farming. While JetMaster is a new product for MPI, ...
- Global Agricultural Robots Market evaluation with focus on development trends 2016on November 27, 2019 at 4:28 am
Global Agricultural Robots Market 2016-2025 by Application (Field Farming, Indoor Farming, Livestock Management, Horticulture), Technology (UAVs, Driverless Tractors, Milking Robots and Others), and ...
- Local rice expensive because robotic scarecrows are used to ward off stubborn birds – AgroKings MDon November 26, 2019 at 5:46 am
Deploying robotic scarecrows to ward off stubborn birds from rice farms ... “One aspect of it, which is really expensive is actually scaring off birds on the farm. You actually have to have human ...
- Police called after robot vacuum sucks up dog in Ballwinon November 26, 2019 at 4:45 am
BALLWIN — Police in suburban St. Louis were called last week to free a little dog from the clutches of an automated vacuum cleaner. Ballwin officers received the call Friday morning from the Oak Tree ...
- Client Note: Google’s EHR Tool, BMW Invests $11B In EV Batteries, A Robotic Process Automation Startup Raises $290M, And Moreon November 25, 2019 at 9:42 am
Also covered are Kroger’s in-store farm, a ride-hailing app shuts down, and AB InBev looks to hard seltzer. US grocer Kroger recently launched in-store produce farms in partnership with German ...
- Tribune editorial: Robots help surgeons reduce recovery time, minimize opioid useon November 24, 2019 at 10:00 pm
CHI St. Alexius in Bismarck also uses the technology. The robot, which costs between $1.5 million and $2.1 million, enables the surgeon to have an improved view of the operation and an increased range ...
- Small Robot Company launch commercial weed mapping serviceon November 24, 2019 at 6:05 am
Small Robot Company, a British agritech start-up for sustainable farming, today announced its first commercial service for Weed Mapping. This is the world’s first service for individual plant mapping ...
- A solar-charged electric robot built in Seattle packs a unique and powerful punch for life on the farmon November 21, 2019 at 10:35 am
Georgios Chrysanthakopoulos and his Direct Machines Land Care Robot behind his startup’s headquarters in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) In a chilly, no-frills warehouse ...
- Robotic dairy: Tasmanian farm joins the new milking technology revolutionon November 21, 2019 at 5:07 am
A DECADE after they became the first farm to adopt a robotic rotary dairy system, the Dornauf family have taken on new technology. Dornauf Dairies has successfully transitioned its Gala Farm near ...
via Bing News