On July 4th the SWEEPER consortium gave the first live demonstration of its sweet pepper harvesting robot. The international press, growers and representatives from the high-tech horticulture sector were present. With over 40 attendances, the event was a great success. This demonstration was held at the commercial greenhouse "De Tuindershoek" in IJsselmuiden, one of the partners in this international research project.
The SWEEPER robot is the first sweet pepper harvesting robot in the world demonstrated in a commercial greenhouse. It is designed to operate in a single stem row cropping system, with a crop having non-clustered fruits and little leaf occlusion. Tests were performed in a commercial greenhouse having a 2-row V-type cropping system. Preliminary test results showed that by using a commercial available crop modified to mimic the required conditions, the robot harvests ripe fruits in 24 seconds with a success rate of 62%.
Photo: Pepper-picking robot SWEEPER (credit: www.sweeper-robot.eu)
Photo: The picking of peppers by the SWEEPER robot (credit: www.sweeper-robot.eu)
Based upon these results, the Sweeper consortium expects that a commercial sweet pepper harvesting robot will be available within 4-5 years. Further research is needed to make the robot work even faster and reach a higher harvest success rate. Next, a commercial viable single-stem row cropping must be developed and the breeding companies must develop crop cultivars that are more suitable for robotic harvesting. The obtained results can also be used for robotic harvesting of other crops.