Peter Ferguson, Advanced.Farm: ‘Offering the most advanced robotic picking solution’

04-04-2023 | |
Currently 16 Advanced.Farm robotic strawberry harvesters are being used by 5 different customers. - Photo: Maxence Guillaumot
Currently 16 Advanced.Farm robotic strawberry harvesters are being used by 5 different customers. - Photo: Maxence Guillaumot

US company Advanced.Farm offers robotic harvesting, sorting and packing systems optimised for the berry and tree fruit growing industry. With already 18 machines in operation in California and Washington State, this start-up is one of the leaders in the automation of outdoor crop picking.

Advanced.Farm was founded in 2018 in Davis, California. The founders previously owned a startup company in the solar industry that was acquired by Sunpower. Kubota Corporation and Yamaha Motor have invested $ 25 million in Advanced Farm Technologies in 2021.

16 robotic strawberry harvesters already in use

Currently 16 Advanced.Farm robotic strawberry harvesters are being used by 5 different customers. In the current business model, farmers can lease the machines. Leasing a machine costs $5000 per month, for that amount it can be used indefinitely.

The Advanced.Farm team is just there for support since the growers take care of the operation and maintenance of the machines themselves. The more they use the machine, the more profitable it is for them.

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Hybrid powertrain

The strawberry harvester is equipped with a hybrid powertrain, with two electric motors. The architecture of the robot is very simple and based on a 3-wheel system that straddles the strawberry beds. The four robotic picking arms are mounted on slides underneath the machine. The harvester is equipped with a control unit that processes the imagery. The machine is covered all around so that sunlight cannot interfere with scanning. Harvested and packed strawberries can be stored at the back of the vehicle.

17,000 berries per hour

The robot can drive autonomously in a straight line, but an operator is needed for exiting and re-entering the row. The machine can work around the clock and is able to harvest 17,000 berries per hour, or 45 kg per hour. The harvesters are deployed in fleets, one operator can control up to three machines.

The cost of harvesting strawberries for growers is very high as it often requires 18 passes, every 3 to 4 days, over a period of several months. With labour shortages increasing in California, robotic harvesters are being used by a growing number of farmers.

Robotic apple harvesters

After developing their own custom robotic technology, Advanced.Farm have re-used the same technology to build robotic apple harvesters. In Washington state two of these robots picked over 80,000 apples over a period of three months. This year the company will conduct trials with harvesting of other fruis, such as peaches and plums.

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Advanced.Farm has also developed an automated strawberry packline that creates an end-to-end solution for farmers.

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Maxence Guillaumot Product and Market Analyst, AgTech Market