Tevel Aerobotics, an Israeli ag-tech startup with a novel drone-based harvesting solution, demonstrated the latest edition of its harvesting solution at the 2023 World Ag Expo. The company has partnered with S&S Metal Fabrication to build an autonomous tree fruit harvesting solution called the Alpha-Bot that is ready for deployment this upcoming growing season. Tevel Aerobotics is a 2021 recipient of an RBR50 innovation award for fruit-collecting drones.
The partnership with S&S Metal Fabrication is critical to the overall success of this solution. The Tevel drones are tethered so that they can work continuously all day gathering ripe fruit from the trees in an orchard. The drones require a mobile platform with power for the drones. The partnership with S&S provides this.
S&S Metal Fabrication is one of the leading US manufacturers of mobile, manual harvesting platforms. Today, these mobile platforms provide a safe and elevated workspace for human pickers to reach the fruit without continually having to move ladders. The newly designed Alpha-bot is built on top of the chassis from S&S and it is designed to carry the Tevel drones, power the drones, and is built around a central conveyor system that is designed to accumulate harvested fruit from the drones into bins, and deposit the full bins in the orchard rows as the harvest progresses.
The Alpha-Bot can handle a variety of tree fruit from a 50g (2 oz) apricot to a 700g (25 oz) apple. The drone gathers data about each item picked, using the onboard cameras to grade and size the fruit. The system also geostamps and timestamps the picking operation. All of this data is then made available to the orchard owner.
Currently, the mobile platform of the Alpha-bot is not fully autonomous. It requires the operator to manage the movement of the platform down the orchard row as the drones autonomously pick the fruit from the trees. According to the company, there are plans to ultimately make the unit completely autonomous, but those features are still on the roadmap. The operator uses a joystick to control the operation.
Danielle Hager, Marketing Manager for Tevel said “Since last year, we’re continually making improvements. We’re adding more varieties of fruit. We’re adding more data features. We also provide real-time data on every single fruit as it’s being picked: we can tell you the weight, the size, the color grading, the timestamp, the heat map, all of this information, and the farmer can just see it on his phone so he can see the content. And the power in our software is that we’re able to give them even more information, more real-time data and this is really what they’re also hungry for.”
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