Agricultural robot will be able to harvest high-value crops

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Robotics engineers in the European Union (EU) plan to develop an agricultural robot that can sense, spray and pick high-value crops.

Researchers working on the so-called Clever Robots for Crops (CROPS) project plan to create a prototype robotic system that will be able to harvest high-value crops such as greenhouse peppers, orchard fruit and premium wine grapes.

The CROPS robotic system will comprise a carrier platform that includes computer-controlled modular parallel manipulators and sensors, sprayers and grippers that are capable of adapting to new tasks and conditions.

In use, the researchers hope that the system will be able to detect fruit, sense its ripeness, then move to grasp and softly detach only the ripe fruit. The robot should also be capable of the targeted spraying of pesticides only on selected targets.

Another objective of the CROPS project is to develop techniques for the reliable detection and classification of obstacles and other objects to enable the robot to autonomously navigate in plantations and forests.

Researchers from the Wageningen University Applied Plant-Research Centre, the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Institute of Applied Mechanics at the Technical University Munich, as well as Case New Holland and automation technology and pneumatic supplier Festo, are just five of the 14 institutions working on the project.