Fruit picking is a physically laborious task that can require a lot of standing, crouching, and climbing for up to eight hours a day. While it may have its up moments, it is generally a low-paid, seasonal, and repetitive work that has few likelihoods for advancement, and as younger generations migrate to urban areas, the pickers are aging and a global shortage of seasonal fruit pickers is worsening.
COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated this situation due to the enforced travel restrictions preventing seasonal workers from crossing borders. In such times, robots that can harvest the crops are gaining traction.
The flying robot knows a ripe fruit when it sees one
Tevel Aerobotics Technologies has developed a flying autonomous robot (FAR) that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to identify and pick fruit. The company states that their flying autonomous fruit picking robots, which can be deployed everywhere, can fill this need for labor at a lower cost by making orchard management easier.
The FAR robot uses AI perception algorithms to locate the trees and vision algorithms to detect the fruit among the foliage. When picking fruit, timing is extremely crucial since, for example, fruit picked two weeks late loses 80 percent of its value. The robot picks only ripe fruit by classifying its size and ripeness, taking care of that problem effectively. After choosing the fruit, the robot works out the best way to approach it and uses its picking arm to grasp the fruit.
Multiple robots can harvest an orchard without crashing into each other thanks to a single autonomous digital brain in a ground-based unit. Furthermore, they can work 24 hours a day.
Such competent robots always bring up the topic of human unemployment. The company states that its robots are not to replace human fruit pickers but rather designed to complement them.