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Robotic Broccoli Harvesting

(Photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Mister GC.)
Researchers at the University of London are working on a robotic system capable of identifying and harvesting full grown broccoli. (Photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Mister GC.)

Robots could be used to help harvest broccoli, according to researchers in the UK. The team is testing whether 3D cameras can be used to identify and select when broccoli is ready for harvesting. This key step in the development of a fully automatic robotic harvesting system for broccoli, which could significantly reduce production costs. The tool would ultimately cut the crop, as well.

“Broccoli is one of the world’s largest vegetable crops and is almost entirely manually harvested, which is costly. This technology is seen as being an important move towards developing fully automatic robot harvesting systems, which could then be used for a variety of different crops,” said project lead Professor Tom Duckett, group co-ordinator of the Agri-Food Technology Research Group at the University of Lincoln.

“In all our agri-related research work, our mission is to develop new technological solutions for the business of producing food through agriculture. The long-term impact of our research includes safer food, less waste, more efficient food production and better use of natural resources, as well as promoting human health and happiness.”

Another project benefiting from the University of Lincoln’s expertise in this area is the early detection and biocontrol of prevalent diseases of mushrooms and potatoes.

Also funded by Innovate UK, this project addresses challenges associated with the identification, prevention and management of disease by developing diagnostic tools for farm use and alternatives to chemical pesticides. This will enable the primary producers in these industries to rapidly diagnose the existence of disease and facilitate earlier decision making.

The project is also expected to develop a long-needed alternative to the use of pesticides by the mushroom and potato industries, thereby ensuring their future sustainability.

“Food loss from farm to fork, due to disease and spoilage, causes considerable environmental and economic effects. The outputs of this project have the potential to significantly address the challenges presented to the mushroom and potato sectors by pathogenic bacteria and fungi, their detection and resistance to treatment,” said principal investigator Dr Bukola Daramola, from the University’s NCFM. At the heart of the project is a drive to develop robust solutions for bio-monitoring and bio-control, leading to scientific advancement and the marketing of products which will ultimately have significant economic and societal benefit for the UK and beyond.”

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