A robot capable of selecting and then picking ripe peppers. It’s a first. The sign that a revolution is underway in the agricultural sector?
To cope with an increasingly marked shortage of labor in the agricultural sector, Japan first opened up to foreign workers. But we know the taste of the Land of the Rising Sun for technology. So, after having also launched culture on polymer film and a whole series of other innovations, it is today a robot picker of vegetables – of peppers, more precisely – which is put to use.
“L” is the nickname that the engineers of the Japanese company specializing in robotics Agrist gave him and “L” has no legs. It doesn’t have wheels either. To move under a greenhouse – whatever its configuration – between the rows of peppers, it relies on aerial cables to which it is suspended.
Much better yields
And it is thanks to several cameras that L inspects the crops and distinguishes the peppers from the leaves. The task is not easy. Normally, it requires all human know-how. Because peppers have a tendency to grow in all directions. But, thanks to an algorithm and artificial intelligence specially developed for this purpose, the robot also knows perfectly how to spot ripe peppers. He can then reach out with his only arm to grab the vegetable, slice its stem and place it in its storage compartment. Regularly, this compartment is emptied into a basket which will then be taken care of by… very human workers, those.
Agrist specifies that L is able to work twelve hours a day. As long as there is enough light to ” see “, In fact. All with the sole force of two rechargeable batteries. Enough to guarantee farmers an increase in their yields of some 20%.
To effectively allow as many farmers as possible to take advantage of L’s assets, Agrist — who also hopes to start his own farms soon — is offering a kind of contract. The company installs one of these pepper-picking robots on the farm for just over 10,500 euros. And recovers, in exchange, 10% of the sale of vegetables.