Israeli researchers from the Technion are developing a solution that addresses the shortages in seasonal harvesters: robots that pick fruit for us

Throughout history, early summer has often signaled the time to harvest. Harvesting, of course, has evolved considerably. As opposed to ancient times when mobilizing the whole community was necessary to fully harvest grain, there are sophisticated machines nowadays run by just a few individual operators that quickly navigate through fields and efficiently process many acres at a time.

However, in the case of fruits, there is still a need for a great deal of manual labor throughout the harvesting process today, but workers are in short supply. The farming labor and resource shortage is reported in many countries across the world including the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Vietnam and Brazil. Unharvested produce leads to a loss of food quality and spurs enormous economic losses, a fact that will become more evident and problematic as the world population continues to increase.

In a new Israeli study, researchers from the Technion developed a ground mobile robot that could drastically advance fruit agriculture and harvesting. The robot, whose development was led by Associate Professor Amir Degani from the Technion’s Environmental, Water, and Agriculture Engineering Department, will have the capability to use one or multiple small-sized drones to perform the operations required in orchards much more accurately and cheaper than the methods used by farmers today.

The study was recently presented at the “Water and Environmental Engineering in the Face of Climate Change” conference of the Environmental, Water, and Agriculture Engineering Department at the Technion’s Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering.