New robots being developed to pick ripe wine grapes

BEER-SHEVA, ISRAEL – Robotics researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have received a $1.3 million grant to develop intelligent sensing and manipulation algorithms for robots that can sense and pick high value crops.

The project is part of the European Union Seventh Framework Program (FP7) “cRops” (Clever Robots for Crops).  cRops will develop the scientific know-how and several prototype systems to harvest high value crops, including greenhouse peppers, orchard fruits and premium wine grapes.

The cRops robotic platform will be capable of site-specific spraying (targeted spraying only on foliage and selected targets) and selective harvesting of fruit. The robots will be able to detect the fruit, sense its ripeness, then move to grasp and softly detach only the ripe fruit.

BGU’s role in the project will be to lead the development of intelligent sensing and manipulation algorithms. “An agricultural robot must be equipped with intelligence so as to be able to robustly operate in the unstructured, dynamic and hostile agricultural environment,” explains BGU Prof. Yael Edan, of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management who is the BGU project leader. “We are developing an autonomous robotic platform that will reliably and accurately judge which produce is ready for harvest, and skip the ones that aren’t.”

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