US: fruit harvesting robot company shuts down

Abundant Robotics, a Hayward, California-based agricultural robotics company founded in 2016, has shut down. According to a memo about Abundant’s liquidation, the company “was unable to develop the market traction necessary to support its business during the pandemic.”

On June 29, 2021, Abundant put up for sale all of its intellectual property and assets. Abundant said it has a “host of IP, including a large body of vacuum manipulation patents (and patent applications), a patented sensory system to allow the vacuum to navigate obstruction, a patented world-class vision system for identifying fruits and their quality, and several software patents for the machine’s automated operations."

Abundant developed a harvesting robot that initially targeted apples. The system combined computer vision and a vacuum end-effector to select and pick ripe fruit, transferring it into a bin. The company estimated its machine could reach between 50-90% of fruit on trees. The system is designed to augment human labor and could allegedly pick apples every two seconds. Abundant said it was targeting a pick rate of 1.5 seconds for the commercialized version of the robot. The company planned to broaden the type of fruit it picked in the future.

Despite this shutdown, the agricultural robotics market has seen a variety of acquisitions and investments in 2021. Most notably, Somerville, Mass.-based startup Root AI was acquired by AppHarvest for $60 million in April. Root AI was developing the Virgo harvesting robot for indoor farms. The robot can identify and harvest multiple crops, including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and more. Its tomato dataset, for example, allows it to identify more than 50 varieties of the fruit.

Read the complete article at www.therobotreport.com.


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