A reportedly 34 thousand kilos of strawberries are consumed every year during Wimbledon, all of which could be picked by a small group of robots capable of completing the job in less than a week.
Unveiled by the ACTPHAST 4.0 prototyping incubator in Brussels, it would take 14 of the new robots to both pick and package all the fruit needed.
With its patented arm-mechanism the ‘Rubion’ robotic picker detects a ripe strawberry with lasers, and picks and packages it in five seconds.
Belgium-headquartered OCTINION, a research and development firm with an office in Yorkshire, developed the Rubion bot.
The speed enables each robot to deliver 11,500 strawberries in a 16-hour day.
While collecting apples and other hard fruits has often taken a more straightforward mechanical approach, literally shaking crops and collecting them off the ground, the automated picking of berries has always suffered from drawbacks owing to the delicate nature of the fruit.
“The picking of soft fruits with machines has always been tricky given that they are so easy to get squashed and the sensitivity needed to discern whether a fruit was ripe or rotten, simply wasn’t there,” explained CEO and founder Dr Tom Coen.
“However, Rubion, our autonomous strawberry-picking robot is a novel way around this problem. It is comparable to a human in many ways: the robot only picks the finest fresh, red berries and will not bruise or hurt the strawberries in any way.”
CTO & co-founder of Octinion, Dr Jan Anthonis added: “Our robot doesn’t need a break or a holiday and doesn’t complain about the weather.
“The arm has our very own patented ‘soft touch gripper’ that doesn’t do any more damage to the strawberries than a human would. It picks the strawberry literally like a person without cutting or burning the stem, but by actually picking a berry.”