“With the learnings from the trials we’re hoping to have the product ready and improved mid next year, in order to launch the product in September,” says Hannah Brown, CCO and co-founder at Organifarms, a German agtech startup.
Recently, Organifarms launched BERRY, a prototype strawberry harvesting robot. The end product will be ready in the middle of next year. Currently, the company is testing pilots with partners in the region, around Germany. At the beginning of next year, the number of trials are extended when the strawberry season starts. In this way, Organifarms aims to accelerate the improvement of the product.
Saving on numerous factors
As CEO and co-founder Dominik Feiden explains, "It’s quite the investment, but in the end, it reduces labor costs drastically. Besides that, it helps growers to plan better in either having a ground level of harvesting capability covered. As well as having better quality control on the products since bruises can be avoided which results in longer shelf life of the fruits.”
Imagine having one big crate with around 8-10 (open) boxes where strawberries are put in after harvesting. As well as weighing, based on any request of the grower, to set a certain standard for the fruit boxes. After harvesting, the berries are ready to be sold. Hannah notes that they’re really excited to test BERRY with their pilot customers. “Hence, we only have a limited amount of robots that we can offer next year. Yet, we still have some pilot customer slots open for next year, so anyone interested can still apply.”
Interested parties are welcome at pilot farms as well to get a better impression of robot in the works and its possibilities. Piloting allows Organifarms to see how BERRY works alongside other systems.
The software can detect the degree of ripeness of the fruit, classify size and form depending on the farmer's requirements, sort into different quality grades, and detect quality that can be sorted out.
“What sets us apart is that we work very well in close hanging (fruit) clusters, of which the processes have been optimized and perfectionized. BERRY can detect the different fruits when hanging densely, as well as harvest them safely without damaging the fruits," Hannah adds.
The robot easily navigates through other fruits to pick the ripe ones via an RGBD camera based on the color and depth detections of the strawberry.
Growing interest from greenhouse sector
At first, the team was in contact with a lot of vertical farmers, but soon to greenhouse growers as well. Given the huge labor shortage, labor-intensive tasks and rising costs, there’s great interest from the greenhouse sector as well. Organifarms is a great fit for what they’re looking for.
The software platform the company offers is a very versatile product. Therefore, the software can work with different kinds of technologies and mobile platform suppliers to change the settings or add different features. Such as, cutting runners, exchanging the gripper and so on. Organifarms aims to provide a universal platform that performs different tasks in the greenhouse.
Berries and beyond
Currently, Organifarms is putting all efforts on BERRY, the strawberry robot. The company is also planning on adding more features to the ripeness prediction and monitoring diseases to the robot. Soon, they’ll be going into tomatoes and peppers. Organifarms is also planning on becoming more active in vertical farms once the cultivation of strawberries further takes off.