The robot to harvest ripe fruits fully autonomously is a result of the European FP7 project Clever Robots for Crops, CROPS, which is coordinated by Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture. After 3.5 years of research the integration of the final modules was completed.
The base of the robot consists out of a carrier platform on which a robotic arm with the end-effector to grip and cut the fruit, a compressor for the pneumatics, the control electronics, the computers and the sensors for fruit and obstacle detection are mounted. Localisation of ripe fruit takes place in two different stages.
3D camera integrated in the robotic hand
First, a side view image of the canopy is taken by a colour camera and a Time of Flight camera. The images of both cameras get registered to have full information on colour combined with 3D data. After positioning the arm in front of the target fruit a colour camera and a 3D camera integrated in the robotic hand are used to recalculate the fruit position with high accuracy.
Recently it was proven in a commercial greenhouse that the system can harvest ripe fruits fully autonomously. In the upcoming weeks the performance of the system in terms of harvest success, cycle times and causes of failures will be determined.
In the CROPS project fourteen partners from ten countries are participating. CROPS focuses on the development a new techniques for sensors, robot arms, grippers and intelligence, to be deployed in various agricultural applications. The robotic application for autonomous harvesting of sweet-pepper is realized in The Netherlands. The project is co-financed by the Dutch Horticultural Product Board (PT).