China Robot Harvest++

 

UK Partners: Dr Martin STOELEN and Prof Mick FULLER, University of Plymouth

Chinese Partners: Wenhua SUN and Zhonglin ZHANG, Sunqiao; Yuanfei ZHOU, Shanghai Jiaotong University

 

Project Summary: 

This project aims to develop and commercialise soft robotics for automated harvesting of protected crops. In the first instance, it will continue development of a robotic system for tomato picking suitable for the Chinese market which builds on a successful ATCNN Proof of Concept grant, where first selective harvesting of tomatoes with robots in China was demonstrated in Shanghai in summer 2017. Other protected crops such as sweet peppers and soft fruit have already been identified as targets for the cross application of this technology, also in other countries/regions.

We will work towards the exchange of robotics technology for the safe and efficient harvest of vegetable and fruit crops grown in the extensive glasshouses and plastic tunnels in the Shanghai District. The project is a collaboration between the UK and the Shanghai Province of China which services a population of approximately 25 million with a supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, and an export market to Hong Kong and other provinces of China.

The Shanghai district of China has an agricultural policy which is fully compliant with the Chinese government aspirations of sustainable agricultural and horticultural production, which includes an aim to reduce labour requirements in intensive crop production. However, currently most vegetables (tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers) and all soft fruit (e.g. raspberries and strawberries) are picked by hand. The average age of the pickers is also increasing, as agriculture is becoming less and less attractive to the young, educated and increasingly urbanized population.