On July 4th the SWEEPER consortium gave the first live demonstration of its sweet pepper harvesting robot. The international press, growers and representatives from the high-tech horticulture sector were present. With over 40 attendances, the event was a great success. This demonstration was held at the commercial greenhouse "De Tuindershoek" in IJsselmuiden, one of the partners in this international research project.
The SWEEPER robot is the first sweet pepper harvesting robot in the world demonstrated in a commercial greenhouse. It is designed to operate in a single stem row cropping system, with a crop having non-clustered fruits and little leaf occlusion. Tests were performed in a commercial greenhouse having a 2-row V-type cropping system. Preliminary test results showed that by using a commercial available crop modified to mimic the required conditions, the robot harvests ripe fruits in 24 seconds with a success rate of 62%. Based upon these results, the Sweeper consortium expects that a commercial sweet pepper harvesting robot will be available within 4-5 years. Further research is needed to make the robot work even faster and reach a higher harvest success rate. Next, a commercial viable single-stem row cropping must be developed and the breeding companies must develop crop cultivars that are more suitable for robotic harvesting. The obtained results can also be used for robotic harvesting of other crops.
Next demonstration on 12 September
For those that could not attend this event, the next Sweeper demonstration will be held on September 12th, at the Research Station for Vegetable Production at St. Katelijne Waver in Belgium. More information (a.o. high-resolution photos and a video) is available from the sweeper website, which may be used publically by using the reference: "Source: www.sweeper-robot.eu".
SWEEPER is a partnership between Wageningen University & Research (co-ordination), pepper grower De Tuindershoek BV, both in the Netherlands, Umea University in Sweden, Ben-Gurion University in Israel and the Research Station for Vegetable Cultivation and Bogaerts Greenhouse Logistics from Belgium. This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 644313.