Job offersmore »

Tweeting Growers

Top 5 - yesterday

Top 5 - last week

Top 5 - last month

Exchange ratesmore »

Prototype of greenhouse harvesting robot almost able to operate independently

No more clumsy people stomping around in the greenhouse, but a harvesting robot doing all the work. Is that the future of pepper cultivation? In Wageningen a prototype is assembled as we contemplate the question. The robot is equipped with a gripper arm with nine pivot points and a number of 3D camera systems.

Jochen Hemming from WUR

In April 2012 the first prototype was tested in a greenhouse environment. By the fall of 2013, this prototype should be able to independently operate in a nursery, picking peppers. And that's tricky, says researcher Jochen Hemming from the WUR of the Dutch Technology Society in Agriculture. "You’re dealing with a sensitive product in an unstructured environment. The fruits are mostly hidden among the leaves. A robot must be able to distinguish between a green leaf and a green stem to avoid damaging the plant."

The research is progressing, but will the project yield a realistic alternative to manual labour? An earlier contraption, the cucumber harvester, proved unprofitable. "The machine must also be economically viable," admits Hemming. "We have asked growers the hourly rate of their employees and developed our robot according to these numbers." That means that the machine has to reap a pepper every six seconds, day and night. "That’s something we’re trying to achieve right now. But we’re still a long way from marketing this thing. You could say we’re still grabbling with the philosophy of it all: can we really do this, and if so, how?"

About Crops

The Crops Project (Clever Robots for Crops) started in October 2010 and lasts four years. The project involves parties from twelve countries to develop a harvester for high value crops such as peppers, apples and grapes. Currently, a prototype is put together by Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture - but the components are developed throughout Europe. Technicians of Jentjens Machinetechniek in Veghel designed the platform on which the unit can move through the greenhouse. The development of the harvest robot is funded by the EU (CROPS GA No. 246252) and the Product Board for Horticulture (PT No. 14555).

A second, improved prototype is undergoing parallel development.

Watch a video to see the robot in action


Publication date: 3/22/2013





Other news in this sector:

4/17/2014 Australia: Level of floriculture import penetration climbs to 8.6% of domestic demand
4/11/2014 “Concentrating on your own strengths gives you the best prospects for the future”
4/9/2014 Trial production of paper from pepper fibers
3/31/2014 US (MD): Co-generation plant equipment to be auctioned
3/27/2014 Conviron partners with Valoya to extend LEDs into new markets
3/25/2014 Harvest Automation explains the use of 'Grow It Once' plants
3/20/2014 ‘Plug and Play’ CHP solution deployed in Mexico
3/14/2014 Harvest Automation shows how robots can help wholesale growers
3/12/2014 Investigating greenhouse storm damage by using drone
3/12/2014 Harvest Automation introduces a new tool for optimising profit margins
3/7/2014 Netherlands: Drones might be flying through your greenhouse in the future
2/27/2014 Felix Instruments Ethylene Analyzer wins the “Golden Gas Award
2/21/2014 High pressure humidifier from QEP Holland provides optimal storage temperature
2/21/2014 Emerald Coast Growers increases efficiency with new soil facility