GRASP-berry: High speed picking soft fruit robots

Abstract

"The UK soft fruit market is now worth at retail well over £1.3 billion per annum. The UK grows over 160,000 tonnes of fruit and employs 29,000 seasonal and typically migrant pickers. 50% of the total production cost is for labour. The soft fruit industry is extremely concerned with the both the availability of picking labour and labour cost inflation. The impact of Brexit is already affecting labour supply and the opportunities to pass on labour cost inflation are weak and challenging. The soft fruit sector is a UK success story and there are still opportunities for expansion and to reduce fruit imports. However, it is very clear that to thrive the industry needs to drive every possible means to improve to labour productivity. Robotic fruit picking clearly offers great opportunity in the sector. Here we will develop the world's first high speed robotic fruit picking system. We build on ongoing research by CBS, Berry Gardens and the University of Lincoln (UoL), complimenting the team for the first time with the inclusion of ABB, the global leaders in robotic system design and marketing.

CBS have already demonstrated world leading picking performance (in terms of vision system accuracy and picking speed) for their fruit picking robot: GRASP-berry. GRASP-berry is a highly novel parallel robot with two independent picking arms and a novel fruit grasping actuator. The vision system alone is highly novel and deploys advanced AI deep learning algorithms. The initial field trials have clearly shown that to deliver a commercial robot we need to increase picking speed and develop new ways to detect and pick occluded fruit that lie within dense clusters. Here we will test the use of active manipulation to detect and pick occluded fruit, plus a novel high speed robotic picking system that will deploy an ABB Delta robot that is industrially tested and can pick at speeds of up to 120 picks per minute. The system will then be integrated into the world leading Thorvald robotic platform that has been developed by CBS with UoL.

This is a much-needed project that will transform robotic fruit picking from the laboratory bench to a commercially relevant system. The world-wide market for these machines and IP is very significant."

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Berry Gardens Growers Limited, Tonbridge, UNITED KINGDOM £87,869 £ 43,935
 

Participant

University of Lincoln, United Kingdom £294,795 £ 294,795
Abb Limited, WARRINGTON £70,877 £ 35,439
Saga Robotics Limited £533,504 £ 373,453

Publications

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