• John Ennis

Eye on AI - February 26th, 2021

Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!

This week, we’ll be looking at two new developments in agricultural robotics: an autonomous flying drone that uses AI to spot and pick ripe fruit, and a crop-transportation robot called Carry that works alongside human crop pickers.


Enjoy!


Flying Robot Spots and Picks Ripe Fruit from Hard-to-Reach Places



We begin with the Inceptive Mind article, “Flying autonomous robot can spot and pick ripe fruit,” which describes a new flying autonomous robot (FAR) that helps farmers with depleted workforces harvest their crop.


Since the start of the pandemic, farmers have seen their workforce depleted. Travel restrictions kept seasonal workers at home. Unpicked fruit was left to rot. Billions were lost. The FAR robot, developed by Tevel Aerobotics Technologies, was developed to help farmers mitigate that loss by using advanced AI to identify and pick fruit during harvests.


“The FAR robot can work 24 hours a day and picks only ripe fruit,” writes Inceptive Mind contributor Amit Malewar. “It uses AI perception algorithms to locate the trees and vision algorithms to detect the fruit among the foliage and classify its size and ripeness. After choosing the right fruit, the robot then works out the best way to approach the fruit and remain stable as its picking arm grasps the fruit.”

It works like this: farmers call up Tevel when they need harvesting assistance, consulting with a Tevel rep to work out how many FAR robots are needed and for how long, then Tevel delivers their FAR robots to be used until the harvest is complete. Robots are attached moving carts for collecting and are monitored by the Tevel team. Because FAR robots operate under a single autonomous digital brain, they don’t get in each other’s way. They’re able to identify and pick multiple fruit types, as well as assist with thinning and pruning. It’s an ingenious idea in a growing robotics market that’s expected to quadruple by 2026.


Crop Transportation Robot “Carry” Aims to Work Alongside Human Pickers



One robot picker that can work alongside humans is Carry, the crop transportation robot recently unveiled by Future Acres. In fact, Carry was developed with the specific purpose of working alongside humans, acting as an AI-led crop transportation vehicle that replaces hand-held baskets or buckets to increase production and eliminate the strain of carrying heavy loads.


“It’s an autonomous harvesting companion,” CEO Suma Reddy told TechCrunch. “What it can do in the real world is transport up to 500 lbs. of crops in all terrain and all weather. It can increase production efficiency by up to 30%, which means it pays for itself in only 80 days.”

Carry is currently only a prototype. Development partnerships are being explored, as are pricing options. As is, systems cost between $10,000-$15,000 per unit, though the company is looking at a RaaS (robotics as a service) model to potentially defer that cost. While I love the idea, that price point may be difficult to overcome. 30% increase efficiency in 80 days is a start. But remember, that’s only a guesstimate––the robot is still a prototype and hasn’t seen any real-world action. If that sort of ROI can be demonstrated through a pilot program, the floodgates may open.



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