Fieldwork Robotics, a spin – off from the University of Plymouth, has deployed its raspberry picking robots at two locations in Portugal.
The autonomous robots have four picking arms and use sensor technology and grippers to reduce picking time and reduce skidding.
Fieldwork is currently working to accelerate the picking speeds of the robots, with the company aiming for a picking volume of just under 2 kilograms per robot per hour, or 25,000 raspberries per day. A person picks an average of 15,000 raspberries on an eight-hour working day. The team is also focusing on cost savings by adapting the materials used in the robot design.
Fieldwork was founded in 2016 for the development and commercialization of autonomous robots, which provide a solution to the labour shortage and can be deployed simultaneously with humans. With the growth of the world’s population, the demand for food also increases, while there is also a shortage of land and labour.
“In the UK alone, there is a shortage of some 90,000 workers for the harvest and this could have implications for food availability,” said Director and CEO Rui Andres. “Our goal is to help growers harvest everything they grow and keep losses to an absolute minimum.”
The company has two different types of robots: an adjustable vertical picking robot, which can be adapted to various types of fruit, and a horizontal platform, which does not require human supervision and can be used in different situations. By using AI, these robots are able to assess the ripeness of fruits and vegetables and determine the right time of harvesting.