Since the start of the 21st century, robotics and artificial intelligence have been accepted in wide arrays of industries for its efficiency and practicality. This is true for the agricultural sector as well where the robotics industry has been utilized to aid in seeding, planting, and harvesting.
Although robotics have played a key role in agricultural processes, it is limited only in ‘hard crops’ like potatoes and other root crops where it can stand the sometimes sturdiness of metal claws. Delicate crops like strawberries and fleshy fruits are still difficult products not entrusted to the hands of robotics because of how easily it can be bruised.
But a recent creation by researchers and engineers from the University of Cambridge may have finally created harvesting robots that are gentle enough to harvest soft crops.
Meet the Vegebot, a robot first of its kinds that can identify and harvest iceberg lettuce, one of the most demanding crops for human pickers. This is great news that on-demand crops like these lettuces can finally be automated and that robotics can indeed find a way to handle soft crops.
According to a CNN Business report, how the gentle robot works is that a camera scans the lettuce first and can decide if it is ready for harvest or not. Afterwards, a second camera guides the picking cage on top of the plant without bruising it. Built-in sensory system detects when it is in the right position, and compressed air drives a blade through the stalk at high gentle force to get a clean cut.
The Vegabot is innovative and efficient yet still slower than the usual farmer harvester with a 21 second time-need to harvest 1 lettuce.
Simon Birrell, co-author of the study tells CNN Business interview that this can be easily speed up with lighter materials for the robot’s creation.
VegaMot is a creation due to the pressure faced by the global agricultural industry with the world population expected to rise to 9.7 billion by 2050, resulting in more stomachs that need to be fed.
The creators are hoping that the VegaMot’s creation is a sign of hope that it can be that with the help from people who wants to take this creation onwards.