Automato (Innovate UK, 2017 – 2019)

Automato will develop an automated robotic picking system for fresh vine tomatoes. It addresses a key threat to the long-term future of the UK tomato industry arising from reduced labour availability due to likely limits on immigrant labour arising from Brexit and increased cost. Picking labour current accounts for ca. 1/3 of the production costs and could all be removed through robotic harvesting.
The tomatoes grow on vines in a reachable height of 1m to 2m. The task is to pick the ripe crop by identifying the tomatoes and the truss, grip the truss and cut it above without damaging the tomatoes. The project will develop computer vision and robot motion planning algorithms to complete the task with high accuracy and high speed. Motion planning in this scenarios is particularly challenging as the robot arm needs to navigate between the vines to pick the crop. For the successful application, it is crucial to not damage the vines.
This project has the potential to step change the tomato sector. Furthermore, the application of robotics combined with computer vision and motion planning algorithms has potential to underpin the wider deployment of RAS in multiple sectors of food production and manufacturing.

Contact: Gerhard Neumann (PI), Khaled Elgeneidy