Article by: Hari Yellina
After an Israeli start-up company, Tevel Aerobotics Technologies Ltd, began creating an autonomous robot that could pick fruit, orchards may soon have aerobotic technology on their arm to replace some of their labour. Kubota Corporation, which has been encouraging innovation through partnerships with external organisations in Japan and Europe through its Innovation Centers, has lately invested in the business, which began in 2016. Kubota president and representative director Yuichi Kitao, of Japan, recently stated that the business had invested in Tevel Aerobotics Technologies Ltd, an Israeli startup that offers “a fruit harvesting service employing flying autonomous robots.” “Over the next decade, Australia is expected to emerge as the only country with the production and transportation capacity to fulfil supply challenges.”
Mr Kitao stated that Kubota created its first Innovation Center in Japan in June 2019 to foster open innovation through partnerships with external organisations. Soon after, a second Innovation Center was formed in the Netherlands, focusing on Europe and Israel, to suit the various demands of the various regions. Kubota’s recent investments in startups, he added, have allowed the company to gain a better understanding of modern agritech and business models, “thus expediting the development of its creative business solutions in the agriculture industry.” “Compared to grain culture, the fields of fruit and vegetable cultivation have demonstrated a delayed adaptation of new agricultural gear and thus offer outstanding growth potential,” Mr Kitao added.
Tevel, a company in which Kubota recently invested, is working on a flying autonomous robot for fruit picking. Each flying robot, which is wired to a ground unit with a collecting bin and control module, detects ripe fruit, scoops it up, and transports it to the collection bin. A drone, unlike land-based robots that pick fruit with an arm or other means, can access fruit from a height or behind branches and other obstructions, allowing for effective harvesting without missing any fruit. Tasks such as hovering a drone at low altitude or holding and carrying a piece of fruit while flying in mid-air are highly skilled operations, but Tevel uses AI with computer vision, advanced robotics, aeronautical engineering, state-of-the-art flight control and data fusion and perception to realise efficient harvesting.
The technology is still in the development phase and it is unclear when it will be ready for the market. With horticulturalists and farmers struggling to find enough workers they could soon be using drones instead.