Kubota participates in a ‘Series B’ venture funding investment round totalling $ 20 million for Tevel, developer of flying autonomous fruit-picking robots.
Tevel Aerobotics Technologies, founded in 2017 in Israel, is developing autonomous flying robots for fruit picking combining AI with computer vision, advanced robotics, aeronautical engineering, state-of-the-art flight control and data fusion and perception. Tevel is expected to implement commercial roll-out in 2021. Last year, the company won the Best Field Robot Concept Award 2020.
Tevel drones picking various types of fruits
Tevel’s flying autonomous robots are to be used for picking various types of fruits, including apples, peaches, nectarines, pears, plums, citrus and avocado. The start-up is also working on thinning and pruning functionalities.
Kubota’s investment is to reinforce Tevels’s development of labour-saving and automation technology for fruit-picking and enable the launch of a solutions business utilising these technologies, that will contribute to labour-saving and efficiency improvement in farming.
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Each drone is equipped with a gentle gripper and several neural networks are responsible for detecting the fruit, for data fusion of the fruit’s position and their quality from different angles, fruit targeting, foliage and fruit calculations, ripeness measurements and for calculating the trajectory and manoeuvres through the foliage to the fruit as well as pulling or cutting the fruit from the tree. - Photo: Kubota
Over 10 million temporary workers
According to Kubota, every year, over 800 million tons of fruits are produced in an area of 70 million hectares worldwide, representing an annual market value of $ 1 trillion. Farmers spend annually $ 100 billion on fruit picking and recruit over 10 million temporary workers for a short period of time to pick their fruit.
Kubota says these seasonal workers are harder and harder to find, recruit, train, employ and provide temporary housing for. “Sourcing and operating field workers during the picking season is a major constraint that risks their investment and profitability for the season, as well as their ability to pick all of their fruit within a short and competitive time window.”
Covid-19 aggravates labour shortage
In addition, due to the complexity in crossing borders and international travel during the pandemic, the Covid-19 crisis has further aggravated the labour shortage and increased the risk in fruit production by limiting the availability of migrant workers. “Therefore, Tevel’s solution increases global food security by providing an available and reliable supply chain,” says Kubota.