Robots and inflatable conveyor belts set to slash farm labour costs
Applied robotics research is leading to new applications in agriculture
Robots are on the march again into the last bastion of labour intensive
industry - farming and horticulture. Research engineers and
horticulture specialists at the University of Warwick are working
together to devise a suite of robots and automated systems which could
transform farming and horticulture over the next decade.
The researchers from the University of Warwick's horticultural arm,
Warwick HRI, and its manufacturing engineering section, Warwick
Manufacturing Group, are working on a number of robotics and automation
products that will vastly reduce the labour costs of farmers and
growers. Those projects include:
- A robotic mushroom picker: the robot uses a charged coupled camera to
spot and select only mushrooms of the exact size required for picking
achieving levels of accuracy far in excess of human labour. The
mushroom(s) are then picked by a suction cup on the end of a robotic
arm. Whilst the speed of picking is currently just over half that of a
human - the mushrooms and the robot can be set to pick 24 hours a day
right through the night without the need for any sort of break. The
researchers also hope to increase the speed of picking to much closer to
that of a human worker.
- Inflatable Conveyor Belt: The Warwick Manufacturing Group and Warwick
HRI researchers have helped an agricultural machinery company "Aeropick"
to develop a revolutionary group of inflatable aids to harvesting which
provide huge savings on labour costs. The inflatable conveyor system can
be driven into an open field or covered growing area. Within minutes up
to 100 metres of powered conveyor belt can be deployed allowing crops to
be processed at high speed straight to cool storage, or washing, or
simply sorted and graded while still in the field.
By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on
21 Feb 2009
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
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