Israeli-based company Tevel Technologies uses AI-driven drones to pick fruit from trees as the pandemic is shutting down farms worldwide and leaving the fruit to rot. The drones are allowing farmers to speed up the picking process and ensure all ripe fruit is picked.

As the pandemic has stopped much of world travel, farmers who once relied on backpackers and international pickers to sell their fruit now have a high-tech solution to solve their problems.

The fruit-picking drones are equipped with a grabber, an array of forward-facing cameras, and a soft bumper to keep the plants from getting chopped up. The camera array uses an algorithm that knows the characteristics of ripe fruit. In this case, a drone gently grabs an apple and twists. It then drops the apple into a bin and continues until it is full.

This method of checking every single fruit on a tree is extremely slow and tedious for a human, but for the drone it is simple and quick to do. This also ensures nothing is missed and that farmers are getting the most out of their trees.

As the drones work autonomously and are tethered to a base station, a human isn’t required to watch over them, with the only interaction required to pack the system away at the end of the day. The drones connect to a cloud-based interface that asks you what fruit you want to pick, and then the drones get to work.

This interface also shows you how many acres have been picked, as well as the total weight picked, the number of days it took to pick all of the fruit, and the amount of profit that can be made from the harvest.

As the flying pickers are faster, cheaper, and more accurate than pickers, many farmers will want to get rid of their human workforce altogether. Tevel Technologies suggests that the drones should be used alongside human pickers to fill the gaps when not as many pickers are available.

At the end of last month, the company received $20 million in funds from a Series B headed by Kubota. The investment will allow the company to continue its work and access more customers to improve its product and improve the farmers’ picking yield, without needing to 100% rely on humans.

Yuichi Kitao, chairman and representative director, Kubota Corporation, added:

Through further innovation, we will continue contributing to the world in the fields of food, water, and the environment, looking ahead to the post-Covid-19 society.

Photo: Tevel Technologies

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