Gary Wishnatzki, Co-Founder of Harvest CROO and Owner of Wish Farms, Discusses the Latest on Patent Pending Strawberry Robot
PLANT CITY, FL - “Robotics are changing the game. Our automated strawberry picker will be able to work at least 20 hours per day, including weekends,” Gary Wishnatzki, Co-Founder of Harvest CROO and Owner of Wish Farms, shares with me as we discuss the latest patent pending technologies that are gaining interest from strawberry growers.
This technology will allow growers to avoid picking during the hottest part of the day when berries bruise the easiest. “In this sense it will take less time and energy to cool the fruit by picking in the evening hours and will allow for better utilization of cooling facilities and increase throughput by spreading out the load of warm incoming fruit over longer harvest hours,” Gary adds.
Gary also tells me that shippers could add acreage without having to purchase additional cooling resources. Since the volume would be more spread out, there is also the potential to double the capacity that coolers can accommodate.
While they have yet to name the strawberry picker, they have created a logo to accompany the new harvest technology and appropriately dubbed it Harv.
Essentially this patent revolves around the concept of a picking wheel. Named after Gary’s Harvest CROO partner and Chief Technical Officer, Bob Pitzer, the Pitzer Wheel utilizes “conservation of motion principles” with robotic picking heads that can achieve 360 degrees of rotation and will decrease the amount of movement the robot has to accomplish. A series of claws on the wheel pick berries. They will then be transferred to a packing area, where they will be inspected and packed into consumer units.
See the entire video of the Pitzer Wheel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uB1JiVGTBo8
The picker uses Stereo Vision with two cameras mounted on the harvester with the lead camera situated to identify the berry’s color, mass and size to decide whether or not it should be harvested. The second camera uses triangulation to pinpoint the berry for the claw to gently pick and place in the packaging.
The benefits are far reaching for the grower, Gary tells me. “Essentially we will be lowering harvest costs by increasing the speed and duration at which it can pick and pack berries in the field.”
Gary adds, “Weighing packages will be a huge savings to growers, as well. Strawberries are currently packed visually until full. Over-packs can be 10% or more. Larger packs are estimated to be over-packed by even as much as 20-30%. On the opposite side of the spectrum, this technology can also eliminate rejections due to being short weight.”
Growers can also possibly reduce the usage of plastic by over 30%, by using a film lid versus a clamshell pack which the program plans to provide. In regards to precision agriculture, the machine will also be involved in scouting as it travels through the field, taking images of plants which will then be aligned with a database of hundreds of images that can provide early warnings of things like pest presence which will help growers manage and even reduce pesticide usage.