The UK's University of Lincoln Seeks to Create a Fully Automated Robotic System for Broccoli Harvest

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Wed. June 17th, 2015
- by Melissa De Leon Chavez     

UNITED KINGDOM - From dusting drones to pruning animatronic arms, aspects of the industry are becoming more and more the stuff of science fiction brought to life. And broccoli could be next, if the University of Lincoln has its way.

Prof. Tom Duckett, Group Co-Ordinator of Agri-Food Technology Research Group, University of Lincoln“Broccoli is one of the world’s largest vegetable crops and is almost entirely manually harvested, which is costly,” Prof. Tom Duckett, Group Co-Ordinator of the Agri-food Technology Research Group at the University of Lincoln and Leader for the project, said, according to The Engineer.

According to the article, the project is currently getting ready to test 3D camera technology to see if it can be used to identify and select broccoli ready for harvest, which is seen as an important step towards the development of a fully automatic harvesting system that could ultimately be used for a variety of crops.

Jointly funded by BBSRC and Innovate UK, the goal is to reach a fully automatic robot system that can significantly reduce production costs for broccoli.

“In all our agri-related research work, our mission is to develop new technological solutions for the business of producing food through agriculture,” Prof. Duckett said. “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.”

Broccoli production is far from the only crop that the University of Lincoln is attempting to aid, according to Phys Org. The department is working towards the early detection and biocontrol of prevalent diseases in both mushrooms and potatoes, also funded by Innovative UK. This aspect involves developing diagnostic tools for farm use and alternatives to chemical pesticides, enabling primary producers in these industries to rapidly diagnose the existence of disease and make counter decisions sooner.

The University of Lincoln was reportedly one of more than 70 businesses and universities in the UK to share the £70 million (nearly $111 million) Agri-Tech Catalyst funding, which aims to improve the development of UK agricultural technology.

To read about similar agricultural innovations, check out the stories below:

5 Favorite Bots for the Produce Industry

Tanimura & Antle's New Plant Tape

Harvest CROO Robotics Developing an Automated Strawberry Picker