Mar 29, 2019T&G Global claims ‘world’s first commercial robotic apple harvest’
T&G Global is claiming the ‘world’s first commercial robotic apple harvest’ in a post on the company website.
The harvest at T&G’s “home operations” in New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay orchards comes four years after working with Hayward, California-based Abundant Robotics, according to the post. High-density plantings and certain pruning techniques helped prepare them for robotic work.
“We’ve been actively driving towards this for the past few years, including preparing our orchards to be robot-ready,” T&G Global Chief Operating Officer Peter Landon-Lane said in a statement on the website. Additionally, T&G’s parent company BayWa AG two years ago invested in Abundant Robotics, he said.
In February article in Fruit Growers News, Abundant Robotics CEO Dan Steere described the apple harvest system as “a complete system analogous to a combine for orchards.”
“What we’ve built are self-contained, self-propelled systems that drive down orchard rows, recognize fruit, and as they recognize fruit, they decide if it’s ripe,” he said. “And then if it’s ripe, robotics is used to pick the fruit, and robotics uses vacuums to pick the fruit off the tree. Then we carry that fruit to the orchard bins, and fill the bins.”
At the time of the January interview, Steere said Abundant was close to a commercial release but didn’t share a schedule for that.
He said he hoped the device could be priced for all growers.
“This type of automation will be accessible to growers across the industry,” Steere said. “It won’t have to just be a huge operation to work with the automation we’re bringing to market.”
He realized some growers were skeptical.
“It’s up to us to prove to them that we’ll do what they need more effectively,” Steere told Fruit Growers News in January. “I think we’ll be in a good position to be able to do that.”
Top photo: A 2016 prototype from Abundant Robotics. Photo: Abundant Robotics.