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.”