Collaborative Robot Uses Hydraulic Technology to Speed Fruit Harvest
Traditional orchard platforms used to harvest fruits in orchards with fruit-wall-type trees feature fixed or manually adjusted platform heights and travel speeds that often result in a mismatch between each worker’s picking speed and the fruit available in front of them. This leads to reduced efficiency and bottlenecks. In a presentation previously featured on Fluid Power Forum, we will cover a fully automated, hydraulically powered collaborative robotic (aka co-robotic) platform that uses computer vision to optimize picker placement and speed. It estimates the fruit distribution in the canopies while using instrumented picking bags to measure the workers' picking speeds and an intelligent control algorithm to automatically adjust in real-time the platform's speed and lift the pickers to appropriate heights so that the machine harvesting speed is maximized. Hydraulic technology provides the power density needed to smoothly and safely operate machine functions, including adjusting the platforms, lifting the 1,000-pound fruit bins, and controlling the steering. Experiments with a two-person crew in an apple orchard showed that the co-robotic platform managed to balance the pickers' workloads and as a result, it increased the harvesting speed by 11% to 26%, when apple stems were not clipped and clipped, respectively.