Robotics Case Studies
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Rethinking Commercial Fruit Harvesting
Motivo Engineering Posted 08/08/2019
Motivo’s client is a family-owned farm known for their high-quality, unique, and flavorful fruit. This client values innovative farming techniques and sustainable practices.
Picking fruit has typically been something that is done by hand, mainly due to how easily fruit can be damaged and the variability in grown products. Harvesting includes locating fruit to hand-pick, determining if it is ripe, and hand-cutting a particular part of the plant to keep within food industry standards and self-imposed high-quality standards. Motivo was tasked with designing a process to automate harvesting without impacting yield or flavor.
Motivo took a step back from the problem and approached it holistically, looking at the entire process for improvements. We understand that our clients know their farms better than anyone else, so it was very important to us that this was a collaborative process change. Working with the client, we looked at everything from how fruit is grown to how it is currently harvested to how it is delivered to the final customer. Through constant collaboration, we mapped out a plan that identified foundational enabling technologies that impacted fruit flavor, processing time, decreased handling and transfer (less damage), and more data aggregation for efficiency.
The client was particularly interested in the foundational enabling technology that was responsible for detecting when the fruit is ripe enough to harvest. High-quality flavor is an important aspect of their product, and achieving the best flavor requires harvesting at the precise moment in which the fruit reaches optimum maturity. Motivo explored various cutting-edge technologies that were non-destructive, thus eliminating the prep work needed for dissection, and ultimately making automating harvesting easier.
Motivo provided a detailed system architecture which looked at the different use cases throughout the fruit growing and harvesting lifecycle. We laid out a facility-wide approach that included maturity detection, harvesting, and transportation of fruit from farm to processing facility. Advancements on this effort, with an emphasis on maturity detection, continue with the client in 2019.