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Automation technologies for strawberry harvesting and packing operations in Japan1


This paper describes a strawberry-harvesting robot, a packing robot, and a movable bench system. The harvesting and packing operations in strawberry production require harder, more time-consuming work compared to other operations such as transplanting and chemical spraying, making automation of these tasks desirable. Since harvesting and packing operation account for half of total working hours, automation of these tasks are strongly desired. First of all, based on the findings of many studies on strawberry-harvesting robots for soil culture and elevated substrate culture, our institute of the Bio-oriented Technology Research Advancement Institution and Shibuya Seiki developed a commercial model of a strawberry-harvesting robot, which is chiefly composed a cylindrical manipulator, machine vision, an end-effector, and traveling platform. The results showed an average 54.9% harvesting success rate, 8.6 s cycle time of picking operation, and 102.5 m/h work efficiency in hanging-type growing beds in an experimental greenhouse. Secondly, a prototype automatic packing robot consisting of a supply unit and a packing unit was developed. The supply unit picks up strawberries from a harvesting container, and the packing unit sucks each fruit from calyx side and locates its orientation into a tray. Performance testing showed that automatic packing had a task success rate of 97.3%, with a process time per fruit of 7.3 s. Thirdly, a movable bench system was developed, which makes planting beds rotate in longitudinal and lateral ways. This system brought high density production and labour saving operation at a fixed position, such as crop maintenance and harvesting. By setting up the main body of a strawberry-harvesting robot on working space, unmanned operation technique was developed and tested in an experimental greenhouse. Field experiments of these new automation technologies were conducted and gave a potential of practical use.