Harvest CROO Robotics, a manufacturer of automated agricultural solutions, has announced that it is developing and beginning to test a new technology for agricultural robotics – an automated strawberry picker.
The farming industry in the U.S. spends $750 million per year picking strawberries alone. Gary Wishnatzki, Co-Founder of Harvest CROO and owner of Wish Farms, sees first hand, as a member of the agricultural industry, the imminent need for an automated system for harvesting strawberries.
“I charged our engineers with the task of creating a ‘picker’ that does not require a grower to radically change the way they currently grow,” said Wishnatzki. “That is the major reason other robotic harvesters have not yet been commercialized.”
Harvest CROO machines will pick on traditional strawberry beds. Chief Technical Officer and Co-Founder, Bob Pitzer, took to the fields to study and observe the way human pickers harvest strawberries. With that information, he began outlining and conceptualizing the first prototype, which mimics the ways humans currently pick.
“With robotic manipulation, our biggest challenge is minimizing time,” said Pitzer. “Based on our observations, our goal was to develop robots to pick as many berries as possible while utilizing conservation of motion.”
In Phase I, $1 million was raised through qualified investors, including seven from the strawberry industry. In Phase II, Harvest CROO is seeking to raise $1.5 million to build the next version, the Alpha unit, which will be the predecessor to a production model. The Alpha will not only pick, but also place the berries into consumer packs.
Harvest CROO has a utility and a provisional patent filed.