Boosting Fruit-Picking Productivity: Tevel’s Flying Robots

Israel is abuzz with news about Tevel’s fruit-picking, AI robot.

The Flying Autonomous Robot™ (FAR) can autonomously harvest crops normally picked by hand or other equipment.  It can also mimic the activities of bees, pollinating the crops.

Israel has become a hub for over 500 agri-tech companies that call it home.

Interested in learning more about use of drones in agriculture? See the post, New Buzz on Drones.

Video Spotlight:  

This post is based on the FOX News article, Fruit-picking robots take flight, just when you’ve seen it all, by Kurt Knutsson, August 2, 2023; the Phys.Org article, Israel enlists drones, AI and big data to farm for the future, by AFP News Agency, June 28, 2023; and the YouTube videos in the Spotlight.  Image source: kung_tom/Shutterstock

Discussion Questions:

1.  How does this automated process work?

Guidance: The robots are attached to a power source with tethers.  They hover next to trees, able to assess ripeness with cameras that note fruit size and color.  They use a suction cup arm to gently pull and remove the fruit from the tree and transfer it into a bin.

Robots are also able to pollinate fruit trees, mimicking the actions of bees while delivering precise timing and coverage of pollen.  Since all the fruit is pollinated at once, rather than intermittently by bees, this in turn means that fruit will come ripe at the same time, minimizing the need to harvest the same trees multiple times.

Right now, the process is used for stone fruit, such as peaches and nectarines, as well as apples.  New technology is in the works to harvest mangos and avocadoes which have to be cut from their stems.

2. What are some of the benefits of using these fruit-picking robots as compared to using human labor or other robotic products that are on the market?  What efficiencies do they offer?

Guidance: When used to pick fruit, they can help farmers combat labor shortages and high labor costs.  Although they are slower than humans, Tevel’s Flying Autonomous Robots™ (FARs) can work day and night without breaks, absences, ergonomic issues, concerns about the heat, or other social or environmental issues that come into play with human labor.

FARs also provide real-time data on the amount of fruit they have picked as well as how long it will take to finish the job.  They are also faster and more cost-effective than other robots that are ground-based rather than aerial.

3. In what parts of the world are the robots making their mark?

Guidance: So far, they are being used in Israel and California.  Plans to roll out use in new locations in Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Asia and Europe are in the works.

In addition to considering in which parts of the world the types of fruit are grown that Tevel’s robots can harvest, other key considerations for target markets will likely be countries where labor costs are relatively high and labor availability relatively low.

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