Soon, intelligent harvesting robots to end UK's farmer shortage woes

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Washington, Aug 12 (ANI): British researchers are working on developing intelligent harvesting robots that may soon minimise wastage and solve an impending problem of labour shortage for UK farmers.

Annual waste for certain crops can be up to 60pct - which can mean up to 100,000 pounds of lost revenue for an average farm.

Falling number of migrant labourers means that healthy crops cannot be gathered and so farms are losing crops due to harvesting at the wrong time.

National Physical Laboratory (NPL) scientists in collaboration with KMS projects and Vegetable Harvesting Systems (VHS) are trying to develop an intelligent harvesting machine, which can look beneath the leafy layers of a crop, identify the differing materials, and enable precise size identification.

This can be used to develop a fully automated harvesting robot, which would be able to fill the gap left by the labour shortage.

The most appropriate technologies to use are radio frequencies, microwaves, terahertz and the far-infra red.

These four parts of the electromagnetic spectrum all have potential to safely penetrate the crop layers and identify the size of the harvestable material for a relatively low cost.

NPL has developed a methodology for crop identification and selection focusing on cauliflower crops, one of the hardest crops to measure due to the large amount of leafage that covers the vegetable.

The researchers began by modifying microwave measurement systems to measure a cauliflowers structure.

A series of measurements made on real crops in the laboratory and field enabled a statistical range of measurements for precise size identification.

This data is then designed into an algorithm to enable a simple size indication from a raw measurement with uncertainties. The final technology will be developed for a first generation harvester and tested in a real farming environment.

The new imaging technology has shown huge potential for the harvesting cauliflowers, lettuces and other similar crops.

"Our aim is to develop a unique new automated harvesting machine that will dramatically improve productivity in the UK and global farming industry and ultimately benefit consumers through cheaper food in the supermarkets," said Project Lead, Dr Richard Dudley, at NPL. (ANI)

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