Japanese high-tech start-up company Inaho has launched an autonomous robotic harvester that picks greenhouse vegetables. It has also begun leasing the machine to an asparagus farmer in Saga Prefecture, southwestern Japan.
According to Inaho, this is the first time that an autonomous harvester robot has hit the market in the country. The firm, based in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, believes the robot will reduce the labor load on farming families facing a growing worker shortage.
Inaho, established in 2017, developed and improved the robot through feasibility experiments with a farmer in Tara, Saga Prefecture. The firm opened a branch office in the prefectural city of Kashima in January 2019 to market the machine to asparagus and cucumber farmers in Tara and surrounding areas. The company is now ready to provide full cooperation and maintenance services to local farmers using the robot.
The robot is equipped with an infrared sensor and can recognize vegetables ready for picking by their size. A single charge lasts for 10 hours, and the machine can keep working even at night. After picking every vegetable ready for harvest in a particular greenhouse, the robot sends a notification to the owner's smartphone.
"Harvesting accounts for 50% to 60% of the all the time we spend on farm work," said 40-year-old farmer Kotaro Ando, who has the machine working on his property. "The robot gives us time we can divert to sales promotion and experiments to improve the quality of our products. It's so helpful."