Like many industries around the world, Australia’s fruit picking sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a huge gap in the labor market that is often filled with travelers. Backpack customers are looking to make money on the road. Local researchers have come up with a partially innovative solution to this problem, which is to develop a fruit-picking robot that can harvest apples from orchards at high speed.
Robots can benefit the agricultural world in every way, from inspecting crops, shepherding, brushing fields and sweeping grass with lasers. We are also starting to see how they can play a role in the food production sector, with robots that can pick raspberries and harvest ice lettuce or even prune fruit trees. to keep them healthy and not sick.
Researchers at the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace, Monash University in Australia turned their attention to the apple. The robot uses a combination of cameras and deep learning algorithms to scan the orchard’s trees and detect fruit fragments, which requires it to process information about the joint’s shape, direction and position. Connect stems to minimize damage to production and surrounding foliage.
Dr. Chao Chen, head of the research team, said: “The robot picks up apples with a specially designed soft clamp, which runs on pneumatics, has four fingers that operate independently and the suction system helps to grasp and extract. effectively extract apples while minimizing damage to the fruit and trees. research. “In addition, the system sucks apples from the canopy into the clamp, reducing the need for the claw to access the canopy and potentially causing harm to the surrounding environment. The clamp machine can extract more than 85% of all apples from the planned canopy for harvest. “
According to the team, the robot can recognize more than 90% of the apples within the camera’s field of view and a distance of about 1.2 m (4 ft). It says it can work in all light and weather conditions, and takes less than 200 milliseconds to process an apple image.
Researchers conducted field tests on their apple harvesting robot this year and reported that it damaged less than 6% of the area by accidentally cutting off their stalks (despite the apples. This no stalk can still be sold by some retailers). Running the machine at half speed, it will identify, select, and stakes an apple every 12.6 seconds, while simplifying the pick and drop process has reduced this to about 9 seconds. Finally, running the robot at full capacity reduced this harvest time to 7 seconds per apple.
The video below shows the robot in action.
Robot Apple Harvester 3
Source: Monash University