FG BUY&SELL        FARMERS WEATHER       ARABLE FARMING        DAIRY FARMER      FARMERS GUARDIAN        AGRIMONEY        OUR EVENTS        MEMBERSHIP BENEFITS        BLOGS        MORE FROM US
You are here: News > Insights
Search

You are viewing 1 of your 2 free articles

You’ll need to join us by becoming a member to gain more access.
Already a Member?

Login Join us now

First harvesting robot under development

Insights

While robotic technology for weeding is already available, harvesting has so far proved difficult to automate, however, work at the University of Lincoln has led to development of such technology for harvesting broccoli. Marianne Curtis reports.

Twitter Facebook
Share This

First harvesting robot under development #arable #technology

Prototypes of the world’s first harvesting robot for commercial use are being developed following research using 3D imaging technology to recognise broccoli and enable cutting at the correct place at the University of Lincoln.

 

Professor Simon Pearson, director of the Lincoln Institute for Agri-Food Technology, says the shape of broccoli makes it a good starting point when developing robotic harvesting technology. “It’s set up well and a robot can target it.”

 

See also: Japan creates ’autonomous farm’ run almost entirely by robots

 

Essential to commercialisation of the project has been the availability of relatively cheap 3D imaging technology in the last five years driven by the computer games market, he says. “Connect cameras cost about £150, whereas a professional one can cost £1,000s.”

 

3D vision

3D vision

Detection and localisation of broccoli heads in the field depends on 3D vision. “Previously the camera technology was not good enough but we’ve benefited from consumer technology.”

 

The camera is placed on the tractor front and the image is filtered to reveal the broccoli heads and where they are situated in space, explains Prof Pearson. “We can identify the clusters and recognise the broccoli with a 95.2 per cent level of accuracy.”

 

Many supermarkets demand broccoli with a 12cm (4.5in) diameter, but during streaming of the image where the broccoli is not in spec it can be left.

 

See also: Robot field day provides glimpse into the future

 

Actual cutting of the broccoli could be robotic or mechanical, says Prof Pearson. “We’re pretty confident in the imaging. Now we are talking to lots of people about the machine.”

 

Currently each broccoli harvester requires seven people – one on the tractor and one on the rig with five cutting the crop. With the development of robotic harvesting technology, this could be cut to one, says Prof Pearson.

 

Robotic weeding in three dimensions

Detection and localisation of broccoli heads in the field depends on 3D vision. “Previously the camera technology was not good enough but we’ve benefited from consumer technology.”

 

The camera is placed on the tractor front and the image is filtered to reveal the broccoli heads and where they are situated in space, explains Prof Pearson. “We can identify the clusters and recognise the broccoli with a 95.2 per cent level of accuracy.”

 

Many supermarkets demand broccoli with a 12cm (4.5in) diameter, but during streaming of the image where the broccoli is not in spec it can be left.

 

Actual cutting of the broccoli could be robotic or mechanical, says Prof Pearson. “We’re pretty confident in the imaging. Now we are talking to lots of people about the machine.”

 

Currently each broccoli harvester requires seven people – one on the tractor and one on the rig with five cutting the crop. With the development of robotic harvesting technology, this could be cut to one, says Prof Pearson.

Challenge

Challenge

“Labour is a challenge for the industry with low margin produce, with net margins of 2-4 per cent if you’re lucky. With the national minimum wage labour costs going up and also a problem with availability of people – there is a lack of people who want to do it.

 

“This is a global issue. In the USA they have the same problem and in Japan there is no net inward migration – it is a demographic issue – they will run out of people who want to do it.”

 

While there is international potential demand for the technology, Prof Pearson estimates the market for robotic broccoli harvesting technology in the UK is about 25 machines. He expects machines to be commercially available in about two years’ time.

 

See also: Could robots solve the problem of labour shortages?

 

AHDB is funding development of a prototype with robotic cutters; the project started at the beginning of June. Development of the imaging technology was co-funded by Innovate UK and Nick Fountain of Fountain and Sons.

Twitter Facebook
Rating (0 vote/s)
Post a Comment
To see comments and join in the conversation please log in.

More Insights

Arable Farming magazine's July 2017 digital edition

Don’t miss this month’s new look Arable Farming. Take a look at the digital edition today.

Chicory and plantain fight the drought

Plantain and chicory are often overlooked as forages for dairy and sheep. But their potential in boosting performance can have a significant impact on a unit’s bottom-line profitability. Farmers Guardian reports.

OSR clubroot threat on the increase - here's how to tackle it

More acidic soils, tighter rotations and a changing climate are just some of the reasons why clubroot is on the increase and spreading to new regions, according to new study. Abby Kellett reports.

User story: The latest ploughing technology with Kverneland's iPlough

Aiming to future-proof its cultivation practices, Angus based Lour Farms decided to invest in the latest ploughing technology. Richard Bradley got a user’s view of the Kverneland iPlough.

User story: Precision farming drive paying dividends for Yorkshire producer

With a firm focus on improving efficiency and producing more profitable crops, Yorkshire Wolds farmers, the Leeson brothers, are constantly refining their precision farming techniques.
FG Insight and FGInsight.com are trademarks of Briefing Media Ltd.
Farmers Guardian and FarmersGuardian.com are trademarks of Farmers Guardian Ltd, a subsidiary of Briefing Media Ltd.
All material published on FGInsight.com and FarmersGuardian.com is copyrighted © 2016 by Briefing Media Limited. All rights reserved.
RSS news feeds