Robotic Citrus Harvester to be Developed by Energid with Funding by U.S. Department of Agriculture

Energid Marketing
Nov 6, 2008 7:00:00 AM

Cambridge, Massachusetts (November 6, 2008) — Energid Technologies Corporation has been funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Small Business Innovation Research Program to develop a new robotic citrus harvesting system. This system will combine the intelligence of robotics with the efficiency of bulk fruit removal to reduce harvesting costs to the citrus grower. Most citrus today is harvested by hand, throughout the U.S. and the world. The resulting high costs, especially high in the U.S., are a significant part of the total cost of producing an orange or grapefruit for consumption. The new system being developed will reduce the cost of citrus products to the consumer while maintaining grower profitability. Most past attempts at automated harvesting have focused either on conventional robotics, multi-link arms, or on bulk removal, such as trunk and canopy shakers. Energid is developing a unique system that combines the best of both approaches. “We believe that adding computational intelligence to high-throughput harvesting will improve efficiency and reduce costs when compared to existing systems”, said James English, Chief Technical Officer at Energid Technologies. “Taking the best features of both robotics and bulk harvesting is the key.” In this effort, Energid will apply powerful technology it has developed for NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense, including its Actin and Selectin robotics software toolkits. Energid has used these tools to develop, control, and simulate advanced robotic systems for many government and commercial customers. The system Energid is developing will use multiple color cameras and many simultaneous removal mechanisms to pick both grapefruit and oranges. It is targeted initially for citrus that is harvested for conversion into juice, rather than to be eaten. The majority of U.S. citrus is harvested for conversion into juice. “The focus on citrus for juice allows us to be aggressive with the fruit”, said Chu-Yin Chang, Principal Engineer at Energid Technologies. “This system picks at high speed. Our technique has broader long-term potential including application to the harvesting of fresh citrus and other crops.” Work on the project will be done in Massachusetts, Florida, Texas, and California.

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