The few remaining farm workers, who pick fruits from trees and plants, are part of those seasonal workers with few career prospects. One of the main reasons that has caused significant reduction in the number of these pickers is the inadequate compensation. In fact, the new generations prefer to move to urban areas in search of permanent and full-time jobs that can offer them a higher salary. 

The Israeli start-up Tevel Aerbotics Technologies, founded by a team of experts in the aerospace and electronics industryhas created an innovative device in order to support and meet the needs of farmers. The new smart product is called Flying Autonomous Robot (FAR) and is a drone able to identify and pick fruits thanks to the use of artificial intelligence. 

“Farmers are struggling today with recruiting fruit pickers, a situation that puts the whole industry at risk” said Yaniv Maor, founder and CEO of Tevel Aerobotics Technologies. “The situation in orchards is worse than in greenhouses, for a few reasons. Fruit season in the orchard is shorter than for greenhouses and orchards are mostly located in remote villages where the local labour is not available, and the imported labour is not sufficient”. 

The Tevel platform is equipped with six drones connected to each other and that are constantly controlled by the artificial intelligence of an autonomous brain. FARs only pick ripe fruits, which can be classified according to their size and ripeness, and then deposit them in the proper boxes without damaging them, also thanks to their “prehensile arms” and eyes powered by artificial intelligence. 

The robots can work 24 hours a day and with the support of the app, farmers are regularly updated on the amount of fruit harvested and on the estimated time needed to finish the harvest. “Our Innovation is designed to complement existing fruit pickers and not merely to substitute them” said the company. “Tevel supplies autonomous harvesting on demand – anytime, anywhere, any capacity. Our flying robots gently pick the fruit without bruising it [and] they almost don’t leave any fruit on the trees“. 

The combination of algorithms, artificial intelligence and data analysis makes FARs efficient and effective devices. The detection of foliage and fruit and the classification of their size and ripening state are made possible thanks to the vision algorithms. In addition, the manoeuvre algorithms allow the drones to travel an optimal trajectory, while with the balancing algorithms the robots can adjust the force used. Finally, the recorded orchard data is sent to other algorithms able to optimize the harvest and better manage the fleet of drones. 

The start-up Tevel Aerbotics Technologies, thanks to the latest funding of 20 million dollars, will be able to complete the testing of the new device, start its production and commercialize the product which, according to the company, will be available on the market by the end of 2021.