Robots will soon be replacing farm hands a few years down the line with a view to offering a solution to the problem of consistent farm hands shortage. The California Farm Bureau Federation’s survey of 762 farmers, undertaken previous year stated that 55% of them faced farm worker shortages.
In order to surmount this problem, a pepper picking robot has been developed by Israeli and European researchers, work that is funded by European Union’s innovation program titled Horizon 2020. ‘Sweeper’ is the name of the prototype that substitutes a farm hand for picking ripe peppers grown in greenhouse.
An inbuilt camera enables Sweeper to ascertain the pepper color and computer vision decides if it is fit for picking. On getting a go ahead signal, Sweeper separates the fruit from the stem with the help of a small razor and then grasps it in its talons before letting it fall in the collection bin below.
The time taken for the whole action is about 24 seconds. In this context, researchers have clarified that the bot’s action has been programed at a slow pace for the purpose of safety. The LED lights fitted on to Sweeper enable it to continue working irrespective of the hour and its working capacity is around 20 hours per day. However, the robot has managed to achieve accuracy levels of 61% so far with regard to plucking of ripe fruit.
Besides Sweeper, there are several other harvesting robot prototypes on the scene today. A strawberry picking robot, a cotton plucking robot and a tomato plucking robot are just to name a few of them being tested by companies such as Argobot Green Robot Machinery and MetroMotion, respectively.
The market for agricultural bots is going to touch 75$ billion in the year 2025 as per the prediction of Market Research Engine. A commercial version of Sweeper is expected to come about in the market within a period of less than five years.