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Made Possible OnLogic

Solving Agricultural Challenges with a Robotic Fruit Harvester by advanced.farm

How to Feed a Growing World

Today it is estimated that the world’s population is 7.3 billion. By the year 2050, The UN projects there will be over 9.3 billion humans on earth. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. In fact, according to estimates compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), by 2050 we will need to produce 60% more food to feed the world’s population.

As the farming industry works to meet increased production goals, farm labor shortages have become a pervasive trend. How can the farming industry address an increased need for food while also overcoming labor challenges?

Innovative companies such as advanced.farm are leveraging technology to address these challenges, and changing the face of agriculture. Founders Kyle Cobb and Mark Grossman had a goal to transform farming through robotics.

The Challenge - California’s Strawberry Market

California provides over 90% of the strawberries produced in the US and it’s one of the state's biggest cash crops. However, strawberries also happen to be one of the most labor-intensive crops to produce. For one thing, the fruit is harvested every 2-3 days and it has a growing season that lasts nearly all year. Traditional harvesting requires human pickers to find and pick the ripe berries located close to the ground, often in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time. Not only can it be difficult to see the ripe berries, but they are also easy to bruise and damage during the harvest.

Farm worker holding a case of ripe strawberries

Strawberry harvesting is very labor-intensive which makes it ripe for a smart agriculture solution.

The Solution: A Robotic Fruit Harvester

Advanced.farm began their mission by working with local farms to create a robotic fruit harvester. This smart agriculture technology has three main components. The strawberry data collector scans above and below the strawberry leaf canopy to collect information about the location of the berries. The mobile platform at the heart of the solution is designed to move through the rows of the plants. This platform houses the master control cabinet and serves to support the picking arm and harvested strawberries and supplies. The last component is the machine vision camera which provides the required data to the arm so it can pick the ripe strawberries.

View of robotic fruit harvester moving down a strawberry row

The mobile platform of advanced.farm’s robotic fruit harvester is designed to move through the rows of the plants without damaging them.

The OnLogic Solution: A Rugged Computer for Smart Agriculture

Advanced.farm came to OnLogic for a computer system to oversee all harvester functions for their smart agriculture solution. The system needed to be rugged enough to live in the master control cabinet and powerful enough to manage the high-level control of the harvesters, including:

  • Processing the LIDAR sensor data for navigation
  • Controlling vehicle navigation via motor controllers
  • Handling robot sequencing and startup
  • Communicating to the cloud via cellular uplink

A robotic arm poised to harvest a ripe strawberry

The robotic fruit harvester only picks ripe berries without damaging the fruit or the plant.

Drew Spiropoulos, production manager at advanced.farm said “Not only was OnLogic able to provide us with a robust and stable platform that could address all of our requirements, but they were extremely responsive to our requests and resourceful in tracking down the build components in a market full of component shortages.”

What’s Next for advanced.farm

Currently, advanced.farm has several fleets of robotic strawberry harvesters in various regions of California. Their harvesters have picked millions of berries for retail sales. They plan to utilize the building blocks of their solution to address other labor intensive harvests, starting with apples in August 2022.

Smart agriculture solutions like this one will become increasingly common to meet the rising food demand. The farming industry continues to innovate to leverage information and technology to optimize labor while improving the quality and quantity of food. For related content, check out our story about Bear Flag Robotics who created an autonomous tractor for efficient farming operations.

A series of 3 autonomous harvesters work a strawberry field

Fleets of strawberry harvesting robots have picked millions of berries for retail sales.

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