Developing an automatic fruit harvesting robot in Japan

Japanese fruit tree industry has been experiencing a decreasing number of workers and the aging of the existing workers. NARO, Ritsumeikan University, and DENSO Corp. have been working together in the R&D project of automation technologies, agri-robots for orchards, and the optimal tree shapes for automated operations to realize the labor-saving cultivation system for orchards.

Today, they announce the development of a prototype of an automated fruit harvesting robot for apples, Japanese pears, and Western pears in V-shaped trees.

The project team has been developing optimal tree shapes and planting techniques for automated operations in fruit trees of nine kinds as citrus and apples: For example, dense planting techniques of V-shaped trees and trees of other forms. The team also has engaged in the R&D of unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) for various usages and automated harvesting robots that work well with these tree shapes.

The robot prototype moves between the trees using UGV and picks fruits with two robot arms. The harvested fruits are collected into the automated fruit storage system set on UGV. When a container of the automated fruit storage system becomes full, it is replaced by an empty container while the robot continues harvesting. The prototype picks a fruit approximately at eleven seconds, which is about the same speed as a person.

In this project, Ritsumeikan University developed software for fruit position detection using sensors and judging the ripening fruits. DENSO Corp. took advantage of its technical strength to develop the hardware of the harvesting robot.

For more information:
National Agriculture and Food Research Organisation

Yuki Onishi, et al., 2019. An automated fruit harvesting robot by using deep learning. ROBOMECH Journal. 6(13), 1-8. DOI: 

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