Very soon that orange that you squeezed for your morning glass of juice could have been picked by a robot. Robotics, machine-vision and virtual reality company Energid Technologies Corp reported that the US Department of Agriculture has funded a project to develop a commercial robotic citrus fruit harvesting system.
The robotics firm will be working on a multi-armed robot to help automate the labor intensive citrus fruit harvest. The funding is in the form of a Small Business Innovation Research program grant. The exact amount of funding was not released.
Harvesting in the U.S. comes with higher salary and support costs. When combined with recent diseases such as citrus greening and canker the U.S. citrus industry is stressed and unprofitable.
The past attempts at automated harvesting of citrus fruits have focused either on conventional robotics, multi-link arms, or on bulk removal by trunk and canopy shakers. Energid is now developing a system that hopes to combine the best of both approaches. It will use a large number of low-cost robotic mechanisms to remove fruit.