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Blueberry picking robot could win $250,000 prize

October 29, 2015
Source: Jeff Kubina via Wikimedia Commons
Source: Jeff Kubina via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s an interesting robotics challenge – a coalition of blueberry farmers are offering a $250,000 prize for automation solutions that improve blueberry picking. The deadline for entries in the competition has been extended to December 4, 2015. Apparently farmers can’t keep up with the record high demand for blueberries.

Naturipe Farms are leading the Naturipe Challenge and offering $250,000 in prize incentives for new solutions, not to mention of course the benefits that for an agricultural robotics company of gaining early access to industry partners and customers. Today only frozen blueberries are harvested by machine, and so the challenge is to improve automation solutions for fresh blueberry harvesting.

“The majority of the blueberries are picked by hand at the peak of maturity and flavor,” said Robert Verloop, Executive Vice President of Marketing at Naturipe.  “However, the berries don’t ripen at the same time so we return to the same bush several times during the harvest season, which is both costly and a labor intensive process. There has been tremendous growth and interest in agricultural technology, robotics and sensory equipment to improve harvesting efficiencies, to manage costs and to reduce food waste.  We hope the ‘Naturipe Blue Challenge’ will help solve some of our on-the-farm challenges.” 

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 7.00.53 PM

Main proposed operating specifications include: size/color sensing for detecting fruit maturity, careful handling to avoid any damage to the fruit, ability to directly fill field trays/baskets, 24/7 harvesting capability, average production of 500 Kg/day, mobility capabilities on uneven ground or dusty conditions, and fabrication costs per unit <$500,000 USD.

For more information or to submit an expression of interest, check out www.naturipechallenge.com.

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