Collaborative Robots Address the Challenges of Fruit Picking

Collaborative Robots for Fruit Picking

Photo Credit: Brubotics-Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Collaborative robots are being developed to address the complex challenges associated with fruit picking. Not only are they poised to help growers increase marketable yield, but they also work to make up for the industry-threatening shortage of pickers around the world.

Touch and Timing Are Everything

Fruit picking is one of the most challenging agricultural tasks for a variety of reasons. Touch and timing are critical factors. For example, it is very easy to damage fruit during the harvesting process, which reduces what can be sent to market. Secondly, a shortage of laborers means harvesting takes longer. Fruit picking must be done quickly in order to avoid losing yield to rot.

Advances in Collaborative Robots Deliver Outstanding Results

The latest developments in collaborative robots for fruit picking are leveraging sensors, 3D cameras, artificial intelligence and sophisticated materials for end effectors to protect fruit during the harvesting process and to maximize yield.

One of the softest and most challenging fruits to pick is the raspberry. Guided by sensors and 3D cameras, Robocrop, the world’s first raspberry-picking robot, uses machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence, to pick and sort the berries. Outpacing human workers, it is capable of picking more than 25,000 raspberries a day.

Another technological advancement is self-healing polymers that can be used for grippers to handle fruit. Being gentle and soft enough to avoid damaging fruit means they are prone to damage. To solve this challenge, researchers have already successfully developed polymers that can heal themselves by creating new bonds after about 40 minutes.

Collaborative robots are opening up possibilities for growers faced with the productivity and labor shortage challenges of fruit-picking. Advances in automation technologies are facilitating further developments that will help to bring the benefits of collaborative robot fruit picking to more growers around the world.

Read RIA's collaborative robots blog articles for in-depth understanding of innovative technological advancements in the exciting emerging market of industrial cobots.