Strawberry pickers could soon be replaced by robot

- A robot is changing the game for Florida's strawberry farmers.

It moves slowly, but it makes fast work of picking strawberries when it’s on a roll.

A company called Harvest CROO Robotics hopes to have its robot harvester ready for the fields by next season.

It has been in development for years. Right now, Harvest CROO is trying to iron out the bugs.

“We have had some pretty good runs out here,” said Scott Jantz. “Some days it works great.”

Other days, engineers leave scratching their heads wondering what just happened.

The massive picker moves slowly at one foot a minute, but it certainly accomplishes a lot. It can replace up to 25 workers.

A sophisticated visual detection system determines which berries are ripe. Robotic arms pick the fruit and they are packed in plastic boxes.

The picker may solve one of the growers' biggest problems: a severe labor shortage.

 Many farmers now leave acres unplanted because they won't have enough people to pick the fruit.

“Anything that we can implement that can fill that void would be a very positive thing for the grower and the consumer,” said Kenneth Parker, Executive Director for the Florida Strawberry Growers
Association.

The robotic picker is expected to substantially reduce the number of foreign workers brought in from Mexico and elsewhere.

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