The SHAPE project will develop a fully autonomous harvester for strawberry production in polytunnels and open fields. Labour shortage is one of the major concerns for strawberry growers around the globe. There is thus a need for new technology to help growers automate this process. The SHAPE project builds on existing developments within the consortium that puts us in a unique position to close the technological gaps needed to make these systems useful for farmers around the world. The first challenge that needs to be solved is robust and reliable mobility in the field, which is an unstructured environment. The consortium has already developed the Thorvald robot, which is capable of moving autonomously both in polytunnels and in open fields. The second large challenge is the identification and picking of the strawberry using a robotic arm. The fruits need to be accurately localized in the field. We find the fruits using a deep neural network and find the location in the three-dimensional space using 3D camera. We will also develop methods for determining the ripeness prior to picking the berry. The consortium has also developed a novel and patent-pending gripper that will be used in the project. The gripper picks the berries by surrounding them entirely before picking. This makes us able to pick berries in the presence of uncertainties and moving berries. We will also equip this gripper with internal sensors that can estimate the ripeness of the berries and evaluate the quality in a enclosed and controlled environment before harvest. Advanced machine learning will be used to give the robot the ability to reason and make decision in the field, substantially improving the current state-of-the-art by inspecting each and every berry before picking. This will guarantee that diseased berries are not picked and ensure online quality control and grading of the berries. Finally the full on-robot and off-robot logistics of the harvested berries will be developed.
Project leader: Ingunn Burud
Institution: FAKULTET FOR REALFAG OG TEKNOLOGI