Automated harvesting

Harvesting is one of the most labour-intensive and costly operations in horticulture. AHDB Horticulture is supporting a project led by KMS Projects to automate these processes to create a system that can be developed to automate the harvesting of other crops such as cauliflower and lettuce, with the ultimate objective to deliver commercial benefits.

For automation of broccoli harvesting, the system must be able to undertake tasks in real time while under continuous motion across the field. The tasks include:

- Accurately identify broccoli plants.

- Accurately measure the size of plants and compare against criteria to establish whether suitable for cutting.

- Obtain accurate data regarding the position of each harvest-ready broccoli head.

- Dispatch the robotic arm with accuracy to harvest-ready broccoli heads.

- Cut each harvest-ready head, leaving the stalk undamaged in the field.

- Lift each cut head without damage.

- Enable cut heads to be collected without damage.

Testing of the prototype took place at TH Clements, first in a barn. Broccoli heads were mounted on boards and the rig was then driven over the "crop". The robot successfully pointed to heads of broccoli, even when these were not uniformly spaced. It also pointed only to heads of the correct size, ignoring those outside specification.

Following the success of the barn-based tests, the team took the rig to the field, where it once again performed well. This prototype will be rigorously tested during the 2016 UK broccoli season.

A report for CP 153 is available on the AHDB Horticulture website

Date for your diary

27 January Brassica Variety Trials Open Day (FV 202g), Cornwall.

AHDB Horticulture

For details on all AHDB Horticulture activity, see horticulture.ahdb.org.uk.


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