THE headlong rush to develop robotic fruit picking machines took another turn, recently, when global manufacturing giant, Kubota and tech specialist, Tevel, won the DLG Agrifuture Concept Award 2022 for a jointly developed automated fruit picking system.

The award was handed out by the German DLG a world-recognised authority on agricultural machinery, during an online session. It marked a new chapter in the search for a credible machine to pick fruit, which can be especially prone to mechanical damage.

With fruit picking labour shortages concentrating minds on finding new solutions, Kubota and Tevel combined their expertise to address this major challenge by developing an automated orchard-type fruit picking system, offering a solution for any farm size through a unique and modular approach.

The modular concept of wired fruit-picking drones and flexible logistics solutions will allow various configurations for individual farm requirements and enable full compatibility with established harvesting methods.

President and representative director of Kubota, Yuichi Kitao; Yasukazu Kamada, president of Kubota Holdings Europe; and Peter van der Vlugt, managing director of Kubota’s innovation centre in Europe, attended the online award ceremony.

During the award ceremony Mr Kitao stated: "Our vision for 2030 is to be an 'Essentials Innovator for Supporting Life'. This DLG Agrifuture concept award is an encouragement to continue our investments in sustainable innovations in the fields of food, water, and the environment, looking ahead to the post-Covid-19 society.”

DLG, the German agricultural society presented these awards for pioneering agricultural machinery work and future visions. Visionary agricultural machinery solutions provide crucial stimuli for the future viability of global crop production, it said.

Engineers across the globe are working on technical solutions for the future of agriculture. Not all of their ideas and concepts make it to the finished product stage.

Often, technical or legal constraints limit their development to market maturity. Many of these concepts, nevertheless have the potential to provide inspiration and to stimulate farmers and engineering colleagues to think in new ways. This award underscores the relevance of this pioneering agricultural machinery work to the future of agriculture 'in five to 10 years'.

“We are particularly proud of our collaboration with Tevel. We partnered with one of the most advanced technology companies in fruit picking," said Peter van der Vlugt. "Kubota is committed to help solve fruit growers’ problems in providing security for harvesting timing and quality and to deal with the increasing labour issues that growers are facing nowadays."

Tevel Aerobotics Technologies is a global leading expert in autonomous flying robots for fruit picking, which combines AI (artificial intelligence)with computer vision, advanced robotics, aeronautical engineering, state-of-the-art flight control, data fusion and perception.

It has develops a fleet of flying robots for performing picking, thinning and pruning tasks in orchards. Furthermore, Tevel’s AI software will enable revolutionary fruit sorting at the source, by picking the best fruit in the orchard, at the optimal and precise timing.