Harvesting Fruits of Robotic Labor!
With Tiptree farms, we have embarked on a new and exciting journey to transform soft fruit picking, inspection and packing. The research in general also has implications towards many other areas requiring robots to manipulate objects with dexterity in unstructured changing environments (for example, robotics in extreme environments, space and even homes and hospitals)
The challenge in Berry picking is simply that no two berries are the same! - they come in different shapes, sizes, order of ripeness and many are hidden in the foliage. Also the environment keeps changing constantly - sunny, windy, rainy - in contrast to a typical industrial environment. Hence, dexterous manipulation in unstructured environments is a big challenge for robotics today.
Currently one billion strawberries are picked by hand at Tiptree every year, all by humans who have half a second to check the strawberries for ripeness, disease and size. Imminent labor shortage, significant percentage of fruits being unpicked and the increasing production costs are key drivers for robotization of such tasks..
Below is a short clip of BBC coverage of this research!
Our new agricultural robot 'The Beast' taking shape at the Essex robotics arena.. (July 2019)
Bi-manual Configuration with a range of sensing, manipulation and configurable hardware/software interfaces.
Some recent work on Soft Gripping, Active Perception, Design of the Beast (June 2019-)