Since April, a multifunctional robot has been helping to harvest tomatoes in a Westland greenhouse. The robot is the result of the cooperation between greenhouse construction and greenhouse technology company Certhon and Denso, the Japanese automotive technology company that invested in the company last year.
"The robot moves in multiple directions to find the optimum position and route for harvesting. Thanks to smart cameras and lighting, the robot can harvest day and night. In the near future, the harvest robot can also scout the yield and measure the climate and health of the plants, including the functionality to protect from pests and diseases," the Certhon team reveals.
Last year Certhon announced that a harvesting robot was being tested. The company started working on it right after Denso's minority investment in Certhon.
The company chose a tomato robot since tomato is a large and popular crop worldwide and there are large growers who can make the necessary investments for this, Edwin Vanlaerhoven, Business Development Director at Certhon indicated at the time.
Edwin Vanlaerhoven, Business Development Director at Certhon shows how the Certhon Harvest Robot detects the fruits and senses which tomatoes are ready for harvesting thanks to advanced vision technology. "The robot shows what we are capable of when we combine smart technology, ambitious people, and horticultural knowledge," he says.
The robot can detect tomatoes completely independently, cut them and transport them to crates. Deep learning technology makes the robot smarter with every harvest.
Eliminating uncontrollable external factors
“In order to make sure all of tomorrow’s people are fed, the world needs to come up with innovative and smart solutions now. Eliminating uncontrollable external factors such as weather conditions, plague or disease has always been on top of a farmer’s wish list, and for horticulture, the 20th-century greenhouse that counters these threats was a big step forward."
"Now, with drastic changes happening in climate, demographics, and labor shortages, it’s time to bring the greenhouse system in line with the 21st century. With that objective in mind, the Certhon Harvest Robot is created. The robot simplifies the cultivation process, making the opportunity to grow food accessible to everyone. And this is just the beginning."
Haruhiko Kato, Chief Technical Officer at Certhon adds: “Each crop is unique and the crops’ condition changes every day. Therefore it is very important that the robot’s motion adapts to any height, direction, and growth speed. By teaching the robot all these skills, we can really change the way we grow.”
The presentation of the robot, with photos and moving images, was preceded by tests at greenhouse company AgriD, the largest greenhouse in Japan. The greenhouse was built by Certhon in cooperation with Denso and Asai Nursery Inc. and is specially equipped for the use of robots.
The coming period will be used to optimize the robot movement in consultation with growers and make it ready for practical introduction.
After tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers will follow, Edwin said last year, because the latter is a very labor-intensive crop. "We are starting in the Netherlands and Canada, in the Leamington region, because of the presence of many advanced growers there."
When the robot will be ready to actually be put on the market is still unclear.
The Certhon Harvest Robot is the company's first external launch. Curious? Check it out here: www.certhonharvestrobot.com.
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