Cooperative robots developed to harvest dessert grapes

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Researchers at the Institute of Robotics and Industrial Informatics (IRI) and the Agricultural Machinery Unity (UMA) of the UPC are working on the European project CANOPIES,whose aim is to explore a new paradigm of collaboration between people and robots in the context of precision agriculture for permanent crops. The focus is the operation of harvesting and pruning dessert grape vines.

Collaboration between robots and people in the industrial sector is increasingly common in the context of Industry 4.0. However, this is not the case in the agricultural environment, where the development of innovative technologies based on robotics and artificial intelligence is still in the early days, even though it is considered fundamental for the sustainable agriculture of the future.

Robots that are developed in this project will be able to help each other and collaborate with people. IRI’s task in the project will be focused on perfecting the robots’ systems of perception through computer vision technologies, in collaboration with the research group Artificial Vision and Intelligent Systems (VIS). This will enable the robots to identify on the vines the grapes that are at the ideal stage of maturity to be collected, and to determine which branches need to be pruned and how this should be done. These tasks require a high level of precision.

UMA’s participation in the project is focused on implementing the various operations and processes involved in agriculture so that the robots can integrate all the functions of agricultural machinery, adapted in this case to the tasks of harvesting, pruning and transport of the grapes.

The challenge of the use of robotics in harvesting and pruning requires the development of complex processes of perception, communication, shared planning of agreements, prediction of human intentions, interaction and action. Under these premises, CANOPIES fills the current gap in the development of robotic solutions that are totally autonomous for permanent crops, with a great impact on industry and society.

CANOPIES provides a great opportunity to attain a more sustainable agricultural paradigm. In addition, it offers new opportunities and leading solutions to revolutionise a millennial agricultural tradition and carry out the work of harvesting high quality dessert grapes more efficiently, at the same time as productivity is increased.

Nine other European partners are involved in this four-year European project of the H2020 programme, with a budget of 6.9 million euros. They are coordinated by theUniversità degli Studi Roma Tre.

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