After five years of development, Belgium-based R&D company Octinion will be presenting its fully autonomous strawberry picking robot during the Fruit Logistica trade fair in Berlin next week.
Octinion says it is the first company in the world to market this kind of innovation, and describes the launch as “crucial for the sector”.
The robot – named Rubion – navigates through the strawberry greenhouse, detecting ripe fruit, picking without bruising, and placing it in punnets, the company says.
It adds that the technology not only provides an answer to the global labor shortage in the sector but also allows growers to increase the quality of their produce.
“Thanks to robotics, we have so many possibilities, much more than a human could ever do. Harvest prediction, picking according to market needs, simply picking when the berries are ripe instead of when workers are available – these are just a few examples of what is possible as of today for a grower,” says Tom Coen, CEO of Octinion.
“The consumer will also notice the difference, as strawberries will be fresher and show less bruising.”
Coen explained the company has not only been working with growers and test centers across the world for the past couple of years, but it has also been in contact with breeders.
“Growing systems and varieties will adapt to what is more ideal for a robot. We will have a robot driving around at the Dutch Fresh Forward Breeding and collaborations with other breeders to shape the future of the sector. Our door is open for additional breeders,” he said.
In 2014 a team of Belgian engineers started the development of the robot. In the meanwhile, Octinion wasn’t the only company presenting a concept.
Octinion plans on launching harvesting robots for other crops in the upcoming years.