Fruit picking is seasonal work – strenuous, poorly paid and without opportunities for advancement. There are, says the Tevel Aerobotics website, “never enough people to pick the fruit at the right time and at the right cost. The fruit rots in orchards or is sold at a fraction of its peak price while farmers lose billions of dollars every year. We are here to help.” To address the shortage of harvesters, Israeli start-up Tevel Aerobotics plans to use autonomous flying robots, known as Flying Autonomous Robots (FARs), to pick the fruit. The system consists of a base vehicle that drives through the orchard, to which four quadrocopters are connected that are powered by cables. Using cameras and AI-based image recognition software, the Flying Autonomous Robots identify fruits, leaves and other objects and classify the crop according to size, ripeness, etc. They use a gripper arm to pick the fruit and then drop it onto the deck of the base vehicle.
“We need,” John White, CEO of Marom Orchards in Israel, who uses the Tevel-FARs in his apple orchard, is quoted on the Elektronik Praxis (in german) platform, “a lot of reliable pickers. But many young people are giving up seasonal farm work in favour of better-paid full-time jobs in the cities. That’s why we looked for a technical solution and came across Tevel. Now we simply use the Harvesting Management app to inform the control centre at Tevel how many picking robots we need, when and for how long. Then technicians come with a fleet of pickers who pick the ripe fruit and pack it for market straight away. The robots are in operation day and night and the application informs us in real time about harvest progress, harvested quality and costs.”
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