There is a new fruit-picking sheriff in town: Robocrop

Robocrop has had it’s first field-day! The world’s first raspberry picking autonomous robot driven by AI has gone on trial in the UK. It relies on 3D cameras and sensors to detect which fruit is ripe and ready to pick.

Why it is interesting. For now, Robocrop is only a prototype. But once fully developed, the machine is expected to pick 25,000 raspberries a day, approximately 10,000 more than a human worker according to its manufacturer Fieldwork Robotics at University of Plymouth

The robot is developed in partnership with Hall Hunter, a supplier of major UK food chains hoping to profit on more prolific fruit-picking methods.

What are the challenges?

  • First, detecting whether the fruit is ripe enough, using its 3D cameras in combination with a machine learning algorithm,

  • Then, using its two grippers to grab soft fruits such as a raspberry delicately without squashing it.

It’s not necessarily new. Fruit-picking robots have been in place for a few years. From vacuums or a large combine to harvest apples, to a gentle arm made in Belgium or even a googly-eyed Chinese cucumber picker, the reaping melting-bot is underway.

Why it’s not happening (yet). The £700,000 robot’s performances remain underwhelming: more than a minute to pick a single berry (five hours for a tart), as can be seen on the video above. There’s no real need to worry according to Nicholas Marston chairman of the British Summer Fruits, quoted in The Guardian:

“It will be 10 years before robots will work as effectively as people.”

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Read the article on The Guardian (EN)