A robotic kiwifruit harvester developed in New Zealand is expected to greatly aid the industry in the coming years, according to local media NZ Herald.
The publication reported labor shortages and new kiwifruit varieties had made it a bigger challenge to get the fruit off the vine at the correct time.
A team of scientists and engineers have reportedly been working with Waikato and Auckland universities to develop a new robotic picking machine, designed to gently harvest fruit from beneath the vines.
The story said the machine used various cameras and a series of learning algorithms to map the canopy above in three dimensions.
“We have trained the system to detect what a kiwifruit is,” Dr. Henry Williams from the University of Auckland was quoted as saying.
“We can do a bit of trigonometry and stereo calculations to get coordinates. We feed that through to the arm and say can you please go here.”
The robotic arms then move to pick the fruit, which can reportedly be done more gently than human pickers if calibrated correctly.
“The robot was more consistent in its handling and also gentler,” Alistair Scarfe, the CTO of Robotics Plus, was quoted as saying.
The developers reportedly say it will be ready to be used for picking within the next three years. Currently they are working on adapting it for pruning and other orchard tasks.