Designing autonomous solutions for agriculture is not an easy task. While there are successful examples of robots autonomously planting, inspecting or picking more accessible crops, there is still a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that remain out of reach when it comes to autonomous harvesting. And there are reasons for that - agricultural environments can be harsh and extremely variable, posing the challenges both to the mechanical robustness of the robot platform and its abilities for autonomous navigation. Another problem to solve is implementing crop picking, which requires algorithms for efficient fruit localization, assessment of its ripeness and plucking without causing damage to the crop, which is especially demanding in case of fragile fruits.
All these challenges didn’t discourage members of EPFL CREATE Lab, who recently developed a proof-of-concept solution for harvesting raspberries, using Panther as a base for their mobile robot. Their novel approach allowed them to achieve 80% successful harvesting rate during the first field test. What was their key to success?