Grüne Woche 2024 - DFKI presents strawberry picking robot and AI ecosystem
DFKI will be presenting its strawberry-picking robot to the public for the first time in Hall 23a. A row of strawberry plants has been specially planted for the smart robot at the joint stand of the Kuratorium für Technik und Bauwesen in der Landwirtschaft e.V. (Board of Trustees for Technology and Construction in Agriculture). It is designed to be small, flexible and inexpensive, and to harvest fruit independently. The system is being developed as part of the RoLand (Robotic Systems in Agriculture) project, coordinated by the Robotics Innovation Centre (RIC) at DFKI Bremen.
The concrete application scenario is strawberry harvesting in the open field, which poses an increasing challenge for fruit growers. Agricultural businesses, such as the Glantz strawberry farm associated with the project, are complaining about a decline in seasonal labour on the one hand and rising wages on the other, says DFKI project manager Dipl.-Ing. Heiner Peters: "This is where our robot comes in. It is designed to support and relieve the labourers during the harvest. If necessary, it can work in parallel or even be used at night." The system enables cost-effective automation in agriculture. The use of several robots is conceivable on larger fields.
AI recognises ripe fruit
The technical components of the strawberry picking robot are a mobile platform, a fruit recognition system and a harvesting gripper. With the help of artificial intelligence (AI), the robot recognises which fruits are ripe enough to be picked. This AI method can potentially also be transferred to other types of fruit.
The system will initially be on display at the Grüne Woche with just one gripper arm, with grippers on both sides planned for the long term. One of the challenges for the researchers is to enable the gripper arms to cleanly separate ripe strawberries from the stem without crushing them. These problems are currently being addressed in the project. Peters: "Our aim is to pick a strawberry with each gripper in six seconds by the end of the project, meaning one every three seconds in total. That is roughly equivalent to the picking performance of a human."
RoLand is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture with a total of 1.7 million euros over a period of three years (1.10.21 - 30.9.24). The Robotics Innovation Centre at DFKI is coordinating the project. The project partners are the Research and Transfer Centre (FTZ) of the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW), Othmerding Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG and Glantz Erdbeerhof (associated).
Venue: Hall 23a, special exhibition hall of the BMEL - Robots in Agriculture
Booth: Kuratorium für Technik und Bauwesen in der Landwirtschaft e.V. (KTBL)
Contact DFKI: Dipl.-Ing. Heiner Peters: heiner.peters[at]dfki.de
RoLand: Agricultural Robotics
The aim of the project is to design and develop a semi-autonomous, mobile system that is capable of harvesting fruit independent of human interaction. While robotic systems are currently used mainly in greenhouses, the target scenario of the proposed project is the open field, taking into account the typical environmental influences associated with it. Taking into account a wide range of possible applications and a low investment volume, the aim is to develop a system that can also be operated economically by smaller farms. An adaptability of the work performance to the farm size-dependent demand is then given by the number of small systems working in parallel.