Are Robots the Answer to Farmers’ Productivity and Profitability?

In recent months, the news has been flooded with articles on our farmers’ plight both in the UK and Europe as they struggle to harvest their seasonal fruit and vegetable crops. The increases in minimum pay alone is threatening to put them out of business if they do not find ways to improve productivity.

The fall in sterling since the Brexit referendum has already reduced the willingness of workers from Europe to travel to the UK as it is simply not as attractive, as the value of money they can send home is reduced. The potential loss of access to a vast pool of labour post-Brexit means that farmers are beginning to wonder if robots might be the answer.

Harvesting soft fruit such as strawberries or blackberries mechanically can be extremely difficult, as each berry needs to be located, assessed for ripeness and then picked and packaged with enormous care to avoid bruising. But recent developments in integrated vision and handling capabilities are leading the way to make this a reality.

Robots can operate in the day or night - harvesting during the chillier night hours can dramatically lengthen shelf life and avoid bruising. But developers emphasise the motivation is not to replace migrant labour with cheaper, more efficient robots.

HMK’s dexterous and adaptive soft finger gripper have been expertly designed to be capable of handling the most delicate of goods, such as soft fruit or eggs, whilst abiding to FDA regulations, requiring the gripper material to be food safe.

Whether the objects have differing weights, shapes or sizing, the soft finger gripper can facilitate industrial applications which have been historically unsuitable for automation.

The soft grippers can function in unregulated and non-regimented environments, meaning they are suitable for ‘turnkey’ integration into almost any application. Due to the flexibility and ability of the grippers when it comes to object variety, it allows for rapid pick and accurate place of up to 120 cycles per minute.

Our range of soft fingered grippers can be used in conjunction with our portfolio of Collaborative robots from TECHMANwhich merges systems that usually function separately in conventional robots.

Featuring an increased payload and reach capability the TM12 and TM14 ‘Cobots’ are Simple, Smart & Safe, and are ideally suited for the Food and Agricultural Industries. Featuring ease of operation and rapid deployment, these robots reduce automation and maintenance costs whilst increasing precision and production, perfect for applications requiring 100% accuracy. The TM range of Cobots features simple programming, innovative integrated vision capabilities together with the latest safety functionality, all leading to rapid deployment in a huge variety of applications. Our Cobots are available to purchase as a single component or HMK can deliver an end to end project solution whereby we manage the assembly, programming and training.

To view our range of soft fingered grippers click here: