The Situation Motivates
The growing demand for high-value crops and growing labour shortage in the agriculture sector are driving forces for developing autonomous robots for harvesting high-value crops. Despite past and ongoing developments of crop harvesting robots, a commercially viable solution available is not yet available as the solutions end/ed up being not scalable and single-purpose devices, i.e. device can be used only for picking a single variety of one fruit grown in a specific way.
Selective harvesting of high-value crops is increasingly considered as a routine pipeline to deliver the standard quality, size and weight on the shelf in supermarkets and to remove fruits with pest, mould, and any other defects from the packages. Nonetheless, this may result in an increased production cost. Selective harvesting of high-value crops can maximise the shelf lifetime, assures the standard quality necessary in the supermarkets and results in reduced waste and post-harvesting labour cost. However, this imposes a huge challenge to the agriculture sector in EU which has already faced a labour shortage issue.
This project, as part of the "VINUM" agri-food robotics project, funded by IIT-Unicatt Joint Lab, identifies this shortcoming and develops a scalable robotic harvesting system which consists of picking, perception, manipulation, simulation and mobility modules, where each of the modules is reusable for other non-harvesting purposes.