<strong>Can harvest robots solve labour shortages?</strong>

Can harvest robots solve labour shortages?

Japanese agritech startup AGRIST has released their intelligence-powered harvesting robot at the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The new robot “L” picks harvest-ready peppers with millimeter precision through layered leaves, the team says.

“We want to solve issues of agricultural labour shortages through harvest automation via robots equipped with AI capabilities,” Junichi Saito, CEO with Agrist, says. “Our “L” robot is an automatic bell peppers harvesting system. Our proprietary AI algorithm, utilizing a combination of different types of cameras, enables the robot to identify and pick harvest-ready peppers with millimeter precision through layered leaves.”

‘L’ includes an end-effector on an arm that draws in stems until it reaches the target pepper, then clips it and is able to fold to drop the pepper into a collection box.

The robot patrols farms daily to monitor crops’ growth, providing farmers with advice on optimal farm management. The patent is pending for the suspended robot that moves along wires and is not subject to the stress of ground movements.

“L makes farming more effective and efficient while reducing human capital and labour needs. “L” works with any existing farm layout without modifications. This, coupled with the lightweight edge computing that keeps the system’s price down, makes AI harvesting more accessible to farmers.”

On their website, Agrist shares how they are looking to lease the robot to growers. “The initial expenses for setting up a harvest robot on a farm is around 1.5 million yen, and the farmer will be charged 10% of the total sales of agricultural produce harvested by the robot.”

With this business model, they want to help Japanese growers who are dealing with insufficient manpower for harvesting.

“Farmers spend more than 50% of their time on harvesting operations. There’s operational pressure as a result of low yields, and pests are spread due to inadequate on-site environment management. Farmers are mired in a vicious cycle where they are exposed to the anxiety of labor shortages and the risk of pests as they are unable to nurture the personnel required for production management, which in turn leads to their inability to expand their scale of production.”

With their automated harvest robot, they look to enhance harvest yields by more than 20% while managing the environment within the cultivation site and detect diseases early.

Their future plans include the development of horticultural facilities specially tailored for robots and conducting packaged sales to China and India, among other countries.

“Solar power will be harnessed to power these facilities to allow for horticulture that is friendly to the environment. Data obtained from harvest robots will be analyzed by AI and utilized for tackling existing agricultural challenges,” says the Agrist team.

For more information visit www.agrist.com

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