Developing a Robot for Fruit Growers - what do people think?

Hello, my name is Charlie and I am working to build a robot for fruit growers. Here is a video of an early prototype: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rzl5cuP6yLY.

What do people think about this? The product is a robotic cart that follows the user, and can also return to a specified point on command. On my orchard, it would be very useful for harvesting apples, and also for spreading mulch (as shown in the video) and in other tasks where I’d otherwise be jumping into/out of a skid steer to spread small bits of material or collect objects.

The cart will be built out of aluminum so will not corrode, and should weigh about 100 pounds and be able to carry 250 pounds or so (at least several bushels of apples).

Any thoughts or feedback on the idea? What might you pay for something like this?

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This is neat! But what I really dreaming about is a following flying cart or bucket! My yard is not suitable for any cart - steps, terraces, narrow pathways. So I would pay a fortune for a reliable drone to follow me ABOVE me (without dumping the bucket on my head though :grinning:)

Here is the type of application I was thinking. Moving around lugs/plastic bins in orchards/fruit/vegetable operations. Any value? Cart could follow the operator, return to a pre-set start point on it’s own, and perhaps dump when it got to a specified point.

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Interesting idea. A few thoughts:

To be useful for me, it would need to be quite a bit bigger. Taking such a small amount on each trip makes for much extra work.

Al does not stop corrosion. It will not rust but various soil chemistries and ag chemical will attack it. Not that steel is any better. You might do better with high quality plastics, at least for the bin part of the unit.

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Steve333,

Thanks for the reply. If your trip was the same (i.e. from a set start point to a set point where you were working picking/pruning/doing something else), then you would no longer have to take the trip, provided there was someone at the other end to load/unload the cart. The cart could also be fitted with a dumping mechanism. Would that make the 250 lb payload size more useful?

Your points regarding Aluminum are interesting. We think that aluminum will last at least 10-20 years given that old aluminum body land rover defenders driven on salted roads are around corrosion free after half a century. Is there some specific problem in orchards/vineyards/vegetable operations that you can think of that will immediately cause aluminum to corrode?

Thanks,

Charlie

I think it could possibly have application, if it could drive through the orchard by itself. If it simply follows a person around, I doubt it would be worth much (i.e. why not just have the employee simply push a non-automated cart, instead of having an automated one follow him around?)

If the cart could drive itself on some pre-programmed route around the orchard, I could possibly envision the carts driving up and down the rows, while pickers place full buckets of fruit in the cart, and remove empty buckets to keep picking. In a normal commercial orchard there are people dedicated to picking up full buckets and placing empty ones down, so the pickers can keep picking uninterrupted. (A little cruel to me, because the pickers never get a break, but that’s the way they do it.)

So your cart would remove some labor moving around picking buckets if it knew where to drive by itself. All that said I still don’t know if commercial growers would buy it or not.

My gut feeling is I would probably avoid aluminum. Some sprays corrode aluminum pretty badly. I don’t see spray tanks made of aluminum. They are generally made of stainless steel or poly. Poly is cheaper, but it fades and could potentially crack after it gets brittle after a few years, under the abuse of a work cart.

Olpea, thanks for the feedback. Re: aluminum, we’ll figure that out with the most robust solution. Our team all grew up on farms so we get the needs of the space and the abuse that things have to take.

We’ve been thinking in essence that the cart (calling it a “burro” - link check out Burro here) would function as a virtual conveyor belt from picker to collection point. With a 250 pound payload, ability to run 10 or so miles on a charge, and to run a few thousand feet on it’s own along a previously walked path to a set home point, would a Burro virtual conveyor belt be useful in replacing people shuffling around picked produce between pickers and collection points?

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I think so. My remaining question would be whether or not growers would buy it.

I hate to suggest another forum, because I think this is the “all around” best forum as a balance of backyard growers and small commercial growers. But from a purely commercial standpoint you might want to consider the forum http://virtualorchard.net/applecrop.html

The folks there will let you know if they have any interest in a commercial automated cart you seem to be designing.

Check out our website to see further progress: www.agrbt.com/products.html

We now have following, are refining it, and working on path record/retrace. Building units to sell so looking for early customers to demo commercial prototypes.

Here’s what we have now.

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Looks useful.

@candersen10
Check out GPS Waypoints Navigator on Android. Using it (via overhead satellites - not cell towers) I can set a waypoint and hike five miles into the deep woods mushrooming and get back to my car EVERY TIME. You can program routes. These guys are sharp programmers! Perhaps u should link up!