Robot Arm Picks Herbs and Flowers
Matthew Greenwood posted on June 05, 2018 |
Gripper hand mimics human touch to harvest delicate plants efficiently without damaging them.

Robotics and advanced production techniques aren’t just transforming the factory floor—they are also changing the farm. In the 21st century, robotics technology is becoming more and more influential in the way we grow, harvest and process the food we eat.

The Rosborg Greenhouse, the largest producer of herbs in Denmark, is one of the agricultural companies using robotics to automate their growing and packaging processes—and benefiting from increased productivity and reduced costs.

The Rosborg facility is automating in response to growing demand and seasonal fluctuations. “We are constantly working to optimize the productivity and profitability of our processes by automating the monotonous, heavy tasks that employees would prefer to avoid anyway. Robot technology also helps us reduce the amount of overtime and temporary workers,” says Henning Jørgensen, Rosborg Food Holding’s partner and operations manager.

The newest addition to the high-tech greenhouse is On Robot’s RG6 gripper, a touch-sensitive two-fingered hand attached to a robotic arm. It has a difficult task: to quickly and efficiently pick and package small, delicate herbs without squashing or breaking them.

The RG6’s fingers mimic the way humans instinctively use our sense of touch when we grab things to move them. As a result, the gripper can lift the fragile plants without damaging them.

The robot is controlled from a user-friendly touch screen mounted on the arm. The interface is designed to allow staff with little or no experience with robotics to quickly and easily change the robot’s settings and switch it over to a different task. Its flexibility allows the users to adjust it according to size, shape and weight so it can best package a wide variety of herbs and plants.

The RG6 also avoids the tangle of cables that other robotic grippers can become entangled in and that can limit their range of motion. While traditional robot grippers typically are powered by compressed air, the RG6 eliminates the cables and pulls on the internal wiring inside the robot itself.

The success of the gripper, and the resulting reduction in operating and labour costs, is motivating the company to explore the great potential of deploying robots in their greenhouses in other ways.

Advanced technology such as robotics, autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence are becoming more widespread in the agricultural sector—in fact, in 2016 the market for agriculture robots was over $1 billion, and automation plays a role in providing food for more than 7.5 billion people.

Read more about the transformation of farming at Smart Farming—Automated and Connected Agriculture.

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