Robots as helpers within the lettuce harvest



Robotic resolution for automating the lettuce harvest

Lettuce is a useful crop in Europe and the USA. However labor shortages make it tough to reap this useful area vegetable, as sourcing enough seasonal labor to satisfy harvesting commitments is among the sector’s largest challenges. Furthermore, with wage inflation rising quicker than producer costs, margins are very tight. In England, agricultural expertise and equipment consultants are working with IDS Imaging Improvement Methods GmbH (Obersulm, Germany) to develop a robotic resolution to automate lettuce harvesting.

The staff is engaged on a challenge funded by Innovate UK and consists of consultants from the Grimme agricultural equipment manufacturing facility, the Agri-EPI Centre (Edinburgh UK), Harper Adams College (Newport UK), the Centre for Machine Imaginative and prescient on the College of the West of England (Bristol) and two of the UK’s largest salad producers, G’s Contemporary and PDM Produce.

Inside the challenge, present leek harvesting equipment is tailored to elevate the lettuce clear from the bottom and grip it in between pinch belts. The lettuce’s outer, or ‘wrapper’, leaves can be mechanically eliminated to show the stem. Machine imaginative and prescient and synthetic intelligence are then used to establish a exact minimize level on the stem to to neatly separate the top of lettuce.

“The chopping means of an iceberg is essentially the most technically sophisticated step within the course of to automate, based on teammates from G subsidiary Salad Harvesting Providers Ltd.”, explains IDS Product Gross sales Specialist Rob Webb. “The prototype harvesting robotic being constructed incorporates a GigE Imaginative and prescient digicam from the uEye FA household. It’s thought of to be significantly sturdy and is due to this fact ideally suited to demanding environments. “As that is an outside software, a housing with IP65/67 safety is required right here”, Rob Webb factors out.


The selection fell on the GV-5280FA-C-HQ mannequin with the compact 2/3″ international shutter CMOS sensor IMX264 from Sony. “The sensor was chosen primarily due to its versatility. We don’t want full decision for AI processing, so sensitivity could be elevated by binning. The bigger sensor format signifies that wide-angle optics aren’t wanted both”, Rob Webb summarized the necessities. Within the software, the CMOS sensor convinces with wonderful picture high quality, mild sensitivity and exceptionally excessive dynamic vary and delivers virtually noise-free, very high-contrast 5 MP photos in 5:4 format at 22 fps – even in purposes with fluctuating mild circumstances. The in depth vary of equipment, comparable to lens tubes and trailing cables, is simply as powerful because the digicam housing and the screwable connectors (8-pin M12 connector with X-coding and 8-pin Binder connector). One other benefit: camera-internal features comparable to pixel pre-processing, LUT or gamma scale back the required laptop energy to a minimal.

The prototype of the robotic mower can be used for area trials in England in direction of the top of the 2021 season.

“We’re delighted to be concerned within the challenge and sit up for seeing the outcomes. We’re satisfied of its potential to automate and improve the effectivity of the lettuce harvest, not solely by way of compensating for the shortage of seasonal staff”, affirms Jan Hartmann, Managing Director of IDS Imaging Improvement Methods GmbH.

Prototype lettuce harvesting robot of Agri-Epicentre (UK)

The challenges dealing with the agricultural sector are certainly advanced. Based on a forecast by the United Nations Meals and Agriculture Group (FAO), agricultural productiveness should improve by virtually 50 p.c by 2050 in comparison with 2012 because of the dramatic improve in inhabitants. Such a yield expectation means an infinite problem for the agricultural trade, which continues to be in its infancy by way of digitalization in comparison with different sectors and is already beneath excessive strain to innovate in view of climatic adjustments and labor shortages. The agriculture of the long run relies on networked gadgets and automation. Cameras are an essential constructing block, and synthetic intelligence is a central expertise right here. Good purposes comparable to harvesting robots could make a big contribution to this.