FREMONT, CA: With farmers complaining over the difficulty in procuring labors to pick vegetables and fruits, the condition is getting worse with escalating prices for the consumers. A comprehensive implementation of robotics based solutions may bring an end to the crisis.
It’s a challenge to get people for farm work, especially during the harvest season in the United States. With the rise in the minimum wage and a decrease in Mexican labor availability, farmers are forced to let their fruits rot.
Due to the intensive physical effort and severe working conditions, it’s challenging to get workers even when offered $50 an hour in California which yields almost half the U.S. industry’s vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Immigration restrictions have further added to the woes of the farmers.
Incorporating robots seems the most viable option at this stage to address these challenges. Further with indoor farming, tackling the reduction in arable lands and population growth is getting better. For vine crops like leafy greens and tomatoes, the average yield per acre is already ten times higher than their outdoor counterparts. Moreover, indoor farming provides an atmosphere for planting and harvesting in all seasons. Introduction of solutions like combining robotics and indoor farming has resulted in a better impact on the farming industry.
Robotic machinery is getting introduced for harvesting, pruning, and controlling ripening of the produce. Robotic harvesting vehicles are tested to pick even soft fruits such as berries. Berries must be observed for their ripeness, then harvested and then collected with care to avoid bruising. However, development in visual sensor technologies and autonomous propulsion has made such complex tasks possible.
For instance, a robotic arm built using the above technologies uses a self-driven trolley equipped with a 3D vision to grip a ripe berry from a pair of plastic tech paws. Another device was tested for identifying ripe fruit, which sorts them based on their size and quality and packs them.
Though there’s a vast ground to be covered, robots are already a part of the farming industry and promise a bright future and an alternative to the intensive labor requirement.