Robotics

Pepper-picking robot moves through crops on overhead wires

Pepper-picking robot moves through crops on overhead wires
Agrist's L robot, in its natural habitat
Agrist's L robot, in its natural habitat
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As the L robot performs its daily inspections of the crop, it uses multiple types of cameras – along with a proprietary AI-based computer vision algorithm – to spot ripe peppers in amongst the leaves
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As the L robot performs its daily inspections of the crop, it uses multiple types of cameras – along with a proprietary AI-based computer vision algorithm – to spot ripe peppers in amongst the leaves
The L robot's unique picking tool
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The L robot's unique picking tool
Agrist's L robot, in its natural habitat
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Agrist's L robot, in its natural habitat
View gallery - 3 images

According to Japanese robotics firm Agrist, there's a shortage of farm workers in that country, resulting in lower yields than would otherwise be possible. The company is offering a partial solution to the problem, though, in the form of a pepper-picking robot.

Known simply as L, the bot is the recipient of an Innovation Award at CES.

Instead of rolling on wheels or walking on legs, the robot moves along between rows of bell pepper plants on thick overhead wires, sort of like a horizontal gondola. As it performs its daily inspections of the crop, it uses multiple types of cameras – along with a proprietary AI-based computer vision algorithm – to spot ripe peppers in amongst the leaves.

The L robot's unique picking tool
The L robot's unique picking tool

When such a pepper is identified, L reaches in with its single arm and uses a specialized picking tool to grasp the pepper, slice through its stem, then drop it in an onboard storage compartment. In order to keep that compartment from overfilling, the robot regularly stops over top of a separate basket then slides open the bottom of the compartment, allowing the gathered peppers to fall into the basket for retrieval by human workers.

L is reportedly capable of working continuously for up to 12 hours a day, as long as there's daylight for it to see by. The robot is powered by two batteries, which can quickly be swapped for freshly charged ones when they start getting low.

According to Agrist, use of the technology should allow pepper farmers to increase their yields by about 20%. The company is currently offering a program wherein farmers pay approximately 1.5 million yen (around US$11,244) to have one of the robots installed at their farm, after which the company gets 10% of their total produce sales. Agrist is also planning on establishing farms of its own, that are specifically designed with the L in mind.

You can see the robot in all its pepper-picking glory, in the video below.

2022 Automatic green bell pepper harvesting robot「L」Product Video_English

Source: Agrist

View gallery - 3 images
3 comments
3 comments
TpPa
10% is highway robbery, short on humans perhaps, but one human can pick 10 fold of he speed of that machine. it also looks like so called farms are smaller size "covered" greenhouses.
meofbillions
I'm as skeptical as TpPa. It's not only extremely slow, but it can't see peppers that are a distance into the plant and those obscured by leaves. Maybe in an indoor growing environment where you can have several crops a year, it may prove cost effective, but then you're moving out of nature to the Great Indoors. Too nerdy for me. Keep people in agriculture. Keep robots out. Keep nature in agriculture. Keep robots out.
Trylon
Hey, guys, no need to be such Debbie Downers. Think before you type. They want 10% of the robot's harvest. That's not terribly high once you consider how much labor costs for picking. Obviously the speed is higher than what you see in the video. If the robot's too slow, they won't be getting much money, right? As for the greenhouses, that's basically the company's development lab you see in the video. Where would agriculture be today if you Luddites had won out against tractors, combines and the like? Regarding the "great outdoors," the Dutch – who are very short on agricultural land – are successfully doing indoor farming with greater control, output and efficiency than many outdoor American farms. Their greenhouses use less water, fertilizer and pesticide per pound of production.