Robo-Pack: The development of an advanced robotic manipulator for rapid inspection and packing of fresh produce

Lead Participant: Rsk Adas Limited

Abstract

"An increasing global population and a difficulty in attracting sufficient numbers of workers from with the current EU is a direct threat to affordable and secure supply for the UK. In order to address this challenge, the agricultural and food manufacturing sectors are increasingly using technology to address the shortfall in labour availability. The suppliers and packers are the nexus between growers and retailers, which in the UK, deal with £13billion worth of fresh produce annually, 70% of which is sourced and imported by the supply and pack industry to meet consumer demand. Any perturbation in this flow of safe nutritious food will have severe consequences for human health and wellbeing.

Robotic manipulation is the ""holy grail"" for fresh produce packing e.g. fruits and vegetables, which tend to be delicate objects with irregular shapes. This sector is dominated by manual labour, because of the need for intricate human handling and inspection skills; this intervention is required for the selection of unblemished product that consumers expect and demand all year round. In such applications, a sense of touch in the end-effector (robot-gripper) is critical. Unfortunately, robotic manipulator systems do not yet possess this capability. Current state-of-the-art systems essentially act open-loop, without the ability to successfully grasp an object if the mechanical interaction between the end-effector and the grasped object is not well predicted; such is the case with the handling of fresh produce.

The consortium will develop **Robo-Pack**, an advanced robotic manipulator for the inspection and packing of fresh produce, initially targeting tomatoes. **Robo-Pack** builds upon proprietary tactile sensing and robot manipulation technology systems."

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Rsk Adas Limited, Helsby £245,000 £ 122,500
 

Participant

London South Bank University, United Kingdom £281,947 £ 281,947
Wootzano Limited, Edinburgh £632,317 £ 442,622
The Shadow Robot Company Limited, London, UNITED KINGDOM £260,250 £ 182,175
Impact Laboratories Limited, Grangemouth £194,888 £ 136,422
Suncrop Produce Limited £99,902 £ 69,931
The Welding Institute £282,702 £ 282,702

Publications

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