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Octinion, a robotics engineering company located in Belgium has recently created a robot capable of picking strawberries. It was created to help farmers with the recent worker shortages they are suffering from.
According to the Octinion, in the same amount of time it takes a normal human strawberry picker to pick about 100 lb of strawberries, Rubion, the strawberry picking robot can pick nearly 800 lbs. Rubion is able to accomplish this feat through a pre-programmed dataset in its internal RGB camera and a photonic sensor which lets it recognize and distinguish different wave lengths and from those wave lengths, it can determine if the strawberry is ripe or not. Once the robot decides the berry is ripe, it carefully picks the berry using a soft gripper. It then sorts the berry based on its weight and size. This whole process is quickly executed within five seconds called the five-second picking cycle
“Just like you know what a plump, juicy red strawberry looks like, Rubion can do this mathematically,” says Dr. Jan Anthonis, the CTO of Octinion”looking for the infrared spectroscopic heat signatures given off from a perfect fruit, getting a perfect ‘hit’ every time,”
Strawberries and other fragile and soft fruits are tough to automate because not only does the robot need to be capable of determining between under ripe, over rip and rip fruit, the robot also needs to handle it delicately due to easy bruising. Rubion is proficient in locating, gathering and storing the strawberries all without damaging them.
Automation Technologies like Rubion are gaining popularity fast due to labor shortages in the agriculture industry around the world. Many farms don’t have enough workers to pick all their fruits or vegetables so the remaining produce is usually left to rot. There have been many other attempts from different robotics engineering companies at automatic produce harvest like a robot that can pick 25,000 raspberries in a single day, a robot that harvests apples automatically using suctions and a robot that can cut and harvest lettuce. Likewise, rice farmers in Japan are starting to use robotic ducks to diminish weed growth and pesticides in rice fields
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