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Home / Posts tagged "Robots"

Agriculture – The Future of Crop Harvesting

Meet the World’s First Strawberry Picking Robot

A number of developed countries undergo a shortage of labor in the agricultural sector that threatens the sustainability and preservation of the industry. Dozens of European farms could disappear from the market unless they find a solution to affordable operating resources.

Currently, less than 5% of the available workforce in Western Society are employed in agriculture. Many decline jobs due to hard and unattractive work, as well as lower salaries, compared to other sectors. A raise in salaries could become an unbearable burden for the sector, as the cultivation industry would become too costly and thus economically unviable. Considering the fact that labor represents over 40% of the inputs, the issue gets exacerbated. Tightened rules and regulations for Labor migration don’t work in the favor of farmers either. Especially, in the times of recent Coronavirus Pandemic and in the face of stalled mobility, many farms were left vulnerable to workforce shortage or complete unavailability.

In the recent decade, several agricultural R&D companies have been focusing on reducing costs and advancing cultivation systems. Precision farming and robotic automation are some of the emerging technologies that have given promising results. There are a number of robot prototypes, especially in the area of harvesting, that could be a viable alternative to costly human labor and provide substantial savings to farmers in the long run.

Octinion and Its Rubion – Meet the Pioneers in robotized strawberry harvesting

Octinion is a Belgium-based innovative R&D company that specializes in mechatronic solutions for the agricultural industry. They have designed and crafted an autonomous strawberry-picking robot – Rubion, that harvests berries like an ideal human-picker without bruising. The innovative robot was first presented to the world in 2019 during Fruit Logistica in Berlin.

Octinion specifically focuses on tabletop systems that are quite common in Europe as well as expanding elsewhere. Rubion has a unique nature as it picks strawberries only in case if the action will not result in bruises. The robot collects at least 70% of all ripe berries and all of them damage-free with a picking speed of 5 seconds. Rubion results in higher picking and sorting quality as well as constant productivity, unrestricted timeframe, and new management tools with gathered data.

At this very stage, Rubion does not fully replace manual labor, as the remaining strawberries still need to be picked due to their unreachability to the robot. But further research and development could improve the picking ratio in the favor of the robot.

How does the Strawberry Picking Robot Work?

As mentioned earlier, Rubion possesses a fully autonomous system that requires no human intervention throughout its operation. The system comprises seven components: the electric vehicle, the localization system, the camera detection system, the custom-designed robotic arm, the gripper, the logistic handling module, and the quality monitoring software. Thanks to built-in quality monitoring, the robotic system allows for sorting, advanced crop monitoring, and precision farming. Rubion picks up around 360 kg of strawberries per day, compared to 50 kg a day for a productive human picker.

Why Strawberries?

According to the CEO of the Octinion Technology Group strawberries are one of the most standardized crops that grow all-year-round, thus the investment can pay itself off faster than it would do compared to apples let’s say. In addition, strawberries are quite vulnerable to the skills of the pickers due to their softness and easily damageable properties.

How about the competitors?

There are several companies with similar concepts and technologies on the market or close to commercialization. However, the majority of them are not suited for tabletop cultivation despite the growing application of the latter. The earliest prototypes were designed in Japan that were fitted in specially adapted greenhouses. Nevertheless, these options did not prove to be economically viable in other markets such as Europe due to high investment costs for redesigning greenhouses.

US competitors Harvest-Croo and AgroBot have also created robots for open-field cultivation. Nonetheless, the machines are quite large and costly. The Dogtooth system from the University of Cambridge is also an autonomous machine for table-top cultivation. However, the machine cuts the strawberry stem instead of removing it. Searching for the stem is quite a time-taking process and because of the small wound left after cutting, diseases can enter the plant much easier as well.

What does the future of Harvesting look like?

From today’s perspective, employing robots in future harvesting looks more than just real. Farmers could potentially utilize a number of benefits that are associated with automated harvesting and fill workforce gaps that arise from time to time in fieldwork operations. Nevertheless, it’s fair to acknowledge that there are further developments needed in the areas of cost reduction as well as improving the robotic applications for other crop types.

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Transforming Healthcare through Artificial Intelligence & Robotics

Over the past few decades, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has played a vigorous role in transforming our world. Especially today, AI presents itself in many different forms and influences our daily life. It is incontestable, that the potential of AI and robotics is nearly endless, opening up new doors for a vast array of industries. Inevitably, Healthcare is one of the latter. Technology allows for more accurate, systematic, and impactful interventions in patient care. Artificial Intelligence is expected to drive the changes and improvements towards healthcare excellence, by truly augmenting human activity.

Applications and Benefits of AI and Robotics in Healthcare

AI has become extremely sophisticated at doing what humans have been traditionally doing. What’s more, it’s incomparably time-efficient and cost-effective. It lays the ground for proactive health management and encourages an appropriate lifestyle for well-being. Although the applications of AI and Robotics in healthcare are vast, we list just a few of them below:

  • Self-Care, Prevention, and Healthy Lifestyle – Contemporary patients are becoming increasingly empowered to take care of their health and well-being. Starting from numerous healthcare applications all the way to sleep trackers and blood pressure measurers, AI-based solutions are able to provide personalized plans and guidance. They can track and process greater amounts of data and gain insights into care processes.
  • Improving Healthcare Operations – With the Help of AI, operations such as scheduling, hospital admissions, discharge, and capacity management become simplified.
  • Diagnosis – Many AI-based technologies can help triage patients and detect whether the symptoms present require additional attention. In turn, it creates a positive trend for the patients to appear at hospitals and emergency rooms only when essential.
  • Early Detection and Diagnostics – AI solutions suggest effective ways for improving early detection mechanisms and timely diagnosis along with its accuracy. This is due to strengthened pattern recognition abilities that can have significant clinical implications.
  • Decision-Making Support – AI can present a patient’s medical information in a well-structured way, that allows healthcare professionals to select the appropriate treatment option. Such facilitation results in a time-effective and evidence-based decision-making process.
  • Care Assistance – Contemporary robots and machines can refill stocks, take appropriate notes, and retrieve medical records if needed. These technologies can as well be of great help while monitoring the patient’s condition. 
  • Innovation Support – along with the clinical practice, AI can successfully support research and development activities.
  • Expanding access to healthcare – AI and Robotics could help fill the shortages of healthcare workers, especially in underserved or developing regions. E.g. AI imaging tools can screen chest x-rays for signs of tuberculosis, often achieving a level of accuracy comparable to humans.
  • Lowering the Burden of Record Use – AI can facilitate the process of receiving routine requests from the inbox, including medication refills and result notifications. It can help prioritize tasks that truly require the clinician’s attention, allowing the users to work through their to-do lists. In addition, Voice recognition and dictation can accelerate the clinical documentation process.
  • Prediction and Management of Patient Risks – AI can extract and analyze the abundance of patient data in an accurate, timely, and reliable manner. This makes patient risk assessment and management way easier.

What are the challenges with AI applications in Healthcare?

The main challenge with AI application in healthcare is reliable and relevant data. AI solutions are just as good as the data they base decisions on. Typically, in healthcare, the data is fragmented across various systems and in multiple formats. Such a fragmentation can increase the risk of errors and decreases the comprehensiveness of the datasets. In addition, AI systems might become biased on the data they are being trained on.

Furthermore, there are ongoing privacy concerns related to AI incorporation in the healthcare industry. Some patients have worries regarding their privacy being violated. This assumption becomes even more sizeable due to AI’s ability to predict the private information of the patient without the algorithm ever having received it.

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