The world’s first fruit picking robot has been developed in collaboration with Hall Hunter, one of Britain’s main berry growers and suppliers for Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose. Creation of Dr Martin Stoelen, the robot will use a combination of sensors, 3D cameras and AI to pick more than 25,000 raspberries a day. Stoelen hopes to tweak his technology further and use the robot to pick other berries, fruit and vegetables.
The robot is now on trial in the UK and separate field trials in China have shown the robot can pick tomatoes and cauliflower. The final version is expected to go into production stage by next year.
This is another indication towards the on-going trend of automation in agriculture. Robots and other forms of artificial intelligence are increasingly being used for weeding, planting as well as milking of cows. This change is especially essential in the UK, given the condition of agricultural labour demographics. European countries like Romania and Poland deciding to redirect nationals into building their own economies, in addition to Brexit, has left agriculture in the UK at an all time low in terms of productivity and labour supply.
The need for agricultural automation however is not restricted to the UK. With the continual shift in population from rural to urban areas, other European countries, the US and China are all having trouble generating a stable labour supply for agricultural jobs. With the robot’s ability to outpace human work output, could it be the future of agriculture during this time of need?