Jan 28, 2021
Project aims to achieve fruit harvest at almost the same speed as humans

The Japanese fruit tree industry has been experiencing a decreasing number of workers and the aging of the existing workers.

NARO, Ritsumeikan University, and DENSO Corp. have been working together in the R&D project of automation technologies, agri-robots for orchards, and the optimal tree shapes for automated operations to realize the labor-saving cultivation system for orchards.

The partnership has announced the development of a prototype of an automated fruit harvesting robot for apples, Japanese pears, and Western pears in V-shaped trees.

“Aiming to save a lot of labor in fruit tree production, we have developed a prototype robot that harvests fruits such as apples and pears at almost the same speed as humans. We will show you a video of how this robot harvests fruits,” a recent news release stated. “In the future, we plan to continue empirical research for practical use so that it can be introduced into fruit tree production areas.”

According to the release, NARO, Ritsumeikan University, and DENSO Corp.  have a tree shape suitable for automation, robotization and mechanization of work machines for significant labor saving in order to cope with the decrease and aging of fruit tree producers. We are promoting the development of.

“Specifically, for nine fruit trees such as citrus fruits and apples, we have developed a row-shaped densely planted tree shape 2) such as V-shaped tree shape 1) that facilitates automation and mechanization of work, and various types according to the V-shaped tree shape,” the release stated.

“We have been developing automatic traveling vehicles and harvesting robots that can be used for various tasks. This time, the three corporations have jointly developed a prototype fruit harvesting robot for V-shaped tree-shaped apples, Japanese pears and pears. This prototype harvests fruit with two arms while being towed by a self-driving car. The harvested fruits are sent to a fruit storage container system installed on the bed of an autonomous vehicle.

“In the fruit storage container system, when the container is full of fruits, it automatically replaces it with an empty container and continues automatic harvesting. Harvesting is possible at almost the same speed as human harvesting (11 seconds / piece).”

In the development of harvesting robots, Ritsumeikan University was in charge of software development such as fruit recognition and harvest time determination, and DENSO Corp.  was in charge of hardware development of harvesting robots.

A video of the developed robot harvesting fruits.: Video link.

Harvesting robot prototype harvesting Japanese pear V-shaped joint tree. Photo: NARO

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