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Robotics technology for picking farm produce

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Farm workers in India. Picture by Vinoth Chandar

By Nandini Kranti 

The use of robotics technology in industrial systems is quite common, but in the agricultural sector, robotics and automation technology still retains a novelty and fascination, and is still to make a widespread impact on labor-intensive tasks.

The discussion on man versus machine has come too far. Artificial intelligence was the key addition that tipped scales in favor of the latter. Precise and iterative line functions in industrial processes are handled by well-programmed robots.

Material handling is seldom an issue in this setup since a great deal of customization goes into each design in the pre-installation phase. 

However, developers have been figuring out for long, how robotics technology market can expand its consumer base. Success seems at hand with SRI International’s advent to launch the startup Abundant Robotics.

The company plans on gifting agricultural harvesting the gift of smart and automated harvesters. It intends on translating each advancement into commercial blockbusters.

Dan Steere, CEO of Abundant Robotics, says: “While orchard yields have significantly improved over the last two decades, labor productivity has not.

“Our goal is to deliver robotic systems to ease the hardest jobs in agriculture. The first automated apple harvesting system that doesn’t bruise or damage the produce will be a huge breakthrough in an industry that has been dependent on the challenges of seasonal labor.”

Three co-founders of Abundant Robotics – Curt Salisbury, Michael Eriksen, and Dan Steere – share the same agrarian background.

It was their time together in SRI when they realized the implementation potential of the technology. They joined hands to revisit their upbringing scene, but this time equipped with smarter tools.

The Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission and SRI, has kept the dream fueled with enough funds and the company has now closed its initial round of investment.

Initial research attempts by SRI yielded substantial outcomes that eventually introduce novice dimensions to agricultural robotics.

The efforts to keep the estimated 7.4 billion global population well-fed, the farm produce has shot for the sky.

On the other hand, labor employment in farms has not gone up by obligatory numbers. In contrast to the concerns of machine as a human replacement, robotics technology in agricultural harvesting is a welcome news.

The present archetype from Abundant Robotics sources from SRI’s innovative technology to harvest apples in an orchard.

Although, the company plans on diversifying its models to serve other farm products, or extended list of agricultural processes.

In the light of current offerings from robotics technology market, this is a major breakthrough for the global stakeholders.


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