Israeli robotics company FFRobotics is aiming to release a robotic apple picker to the market by the end of 2018 or the beginning of 2019, according to a CapitalPress report.
The robotic apple picking platform aims to address a shortening supply of human pickers in fruit producing areas, according to the report.
CEO Avi Kahani reportedly got the idea for such a platform in the late 1980s, but didn’t have the resources to produce such a device until 2014 when he formed a company aiming to create such a system, CapitalPress reports.
“The potential markets are more or less worldwide with the US, Canada, Italy, France, Poland and other countries as main entry points,” Kahani told CapitalPress.
FFRobotics has already tested a field prototype in Israel in 2015, 2016 and 2017, according to the report.
The platform from FFRobotics uses a number of robotic arms with 3-prong grippers to pick the apples which are placed onto conveyors and into bins. The system can pick thousands of apples per hour and between 85 and 96% of a crop, according to the report.
The robot can collect 10 times more usable fruit than the average human picker, CapitalPress reports.
Kahani said he’s hopeful his platform can be adapted for picking a variety of fruits including pears, peaches, cirtrus fruits, mangoes and pomegranates.
The company faces competition from Hayward, Calif.-based Abundant Robotics, who has received a $500,000 grant towards the development of an apple picking platform from The Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, according to the report.
Competitor Abundant Robotics’ platform uses a robotic arm and vacuum tube to detect and suck apples off the tree at 1 per second, using cameras and sensors to guide it.