Fruit picking robot closer to bearing fruitIndustry Best Practice
Ripe Robotics’ fruit picking robot edges closer to orchard trials, with development of the fifth iteration of the robot taking place over the last few months.
Major modifications have been made to ‘Mk5’ in recent times, primarily around increasing reliability and reducing power usage.
“We’ve undergone some pretty massive design changes recently,” says Hunter Jay, CEO of Ripe Robotics.
“We’ve changed the end-effector, previously we had big tubes which worked well on a small scale, when we were picking apples of up to a couple of hundred, there was no problem.
“But a stick might become lodged every couple of hundred, which is still far too often. A stick every 10,000 apples is still too frequent.
“So we’ve made some changes, still using suctions but using a smaller suction cap that wraps around the fruit, and it’s looking to be a lot more effective.
“We’re still hoping to get it into orchard late this season, there’s obviously only Pink Lady apples still to be picked but we’re still aiming to get it out for testing, and then oranges after that and look to expand throughout next season.”
The developments come as accessing harvest labour proves to be a perennial issue on orchards across Australia. The implementation of a minimum wage for fruit pickers starts next week, from April 28.
It takes around 4 – 5 seconds, on average, for a human to pick an apple. The robot uses several arms to fill a single bin of fruit – the video below is the most recent footage available of the robot, but does not include some of the new design modifications.
“While we’re testing, the price we set for growers is the same as you’d set for a bin, picked by a human.
“Eventually, once we are confident that the robot can pick as well or better than humans, we would raise that price.”
Ripe Robotics are based out of Ardmona in Victoria. The robot is still several years away from being commercially available, but has several buyers lined up already for the first edition.
The name of the robot is “still being worked out” according to Hunter. The robot was previously known as Eve.
Hunter also confirmed that there were several interesting collaborations being looked at in other areas, including A.I. technology when it came to fruit scanning.