Harvest CROO Robotics Developing an Automated Strawberry Picker
PLANT CITY, FL - It’s 2015, but the fields are not yet teeming with agri-bots. They endeavor to make life easier, as well as pay for themselves in labor cost.
And they are robots, which is automatically cool. So why, then, is this something that still tends to be more conceptual than commercial?
According to Owner of Wish Farms and Co-Founder of Harvest CROO Robotics Gary Wishnatzki, it’s the inconvenience of having to grow from a new approach to accommodate these technologies. And he seeks to change that with the Harvest CROO’s automated strawberry picker.
"I charged our engineers with the task of creating a 'picker' that does not require a grower to radically change the way they currently grow," Gary said in a press release. "That is the major reason other robotic harvesters have not yet been commercialized."
The first of its kind in strawberry-picking technology, this robo-hand will pick on traditional strawberry beds, with no change necessary on the grower’s part.
"With robotic manipulation, our biggest challenge is minimizing time," Chief Technical Officer and Co-Founder, Bob Pitzer, said in the release. Bob outlined a concept for the robot prototype after studying how human pickers work in the fields, collecting information to create a machine that would mimic the same methods and maintain traditional harvesting. "Based on our observations, our goal was to develop robots to pick as many berries as possible while utilizing conservation of motion."
Harvest CROO currently has a utility patent, with provisional patent filed, and Wishnatzki believes in the positive impact the robot will have on the industry.
“As a member of the agriculture industry, I have seen, first hand, the imminent need for an automated solution in strawberry harvesting,” Gary told us. “Once fully developed, it promises to revolutionize the strawberry industry.”
And others appear to agree. The company raised one million dollars in Phase I of the project from several qualified investors, seven of which are in the strawberry industry. With Phase II, the company seeks to raise an additional $1.5 million for the Alpha unit, the next version to the existing picker, which will be able to pack the berries as well.
Will this be what brings the vision of fields of automated aids to life? The Alpha unit will still be the predecessor to a model for production, so we will have to wait to find out.