Farmers lose around $30 billion in sales every year due to rotten fruit that never gets harvested. Fruit that gets picked even two weeks late ends up losing 80% of its value. Additionally, due to a shortage of fruit pickers, around 10% of fruits worldwide never get harvested. According to some estimates, if this trend continues there will be five million less workers than necessary by 2050. Farmers are left with the question of how to solve this issue.
Tevel Aerobotics Technologies has a solution. The company has developed flying autonomous robots (FARs) that pick ripe fruit off the trees and lower it to the ground for collection. The FARs are able to work 24/7 during harvest without the need for breaks or sleep. They function on gas and electricity and are tethered so that they do not need to land to be recharged.
The FARs are equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) technology that is easily programmable with information about how to tell when a fruit is ripe due its color grading or weight and size, the best way to twist each type of fruit off the tree to safely harvest them, and whether the fruit is damaged or blemished making it unsellable. Set up is easy, taking under two hours with the help of Tevel employees who then stay on the farm for a week in order to monitor the system and ensure it works properly as well as train the farmers to operate the system.
The robots are controlled via a mobile device app, which analyzes the data collected during the harvest about the amount of fruit picked, its weight, pesticide effectiveness, and any diseases that may be present, and then shares it with the farmers. The data helps the farmer to know more about how their farm is functioning overall, including areas that may need more irrigation and spots that are producing more or less fruit so that they can respond accordingly.
Tevel is currently adding new fruits to its AI system so that the farmers have more of a variety on where to place them. The system is already being pilot tested in Italy, Spain, California, Washington State, and more.