World first mango auto-harvester has shown great promise

Professor Kerry Walsh and his team at Central Queensland University (CQU) have developed the world’s first mango auto-harvester that has been recently trialled at Groves Grown Fruit farm in Yeppoon, Queensland. The prototype machine takes approximately five seconds to harvest a fruit from detection to placement according to farm owner Ian Groves. Professor Walsh discussed the details of the auto-harvester at the Australian Mango Industry Association conference in Darwin last May. He indicated that the auto-harvester has the potential to solve the major labour force issues facing the mango industry. The harvester is a component of an integrated system which will ensure farmers know exactly how many fruits are on their trees, when they will be in perfect condition for the consumer, and when to employ the right number of people for picking and packing. It will not totally replace manual fruit harvesting. The end goal is to save costs and improve productivity on farm, while driving consumer demand by ensuring a top-quality eating experience every time.

At present, the harvester has a 75 per cent efficiency in automatically identifying and picking fruits in view. Professor Walsh hopes to improve its performance to more than 90 per cent efficiency, to increase speed, and to refine its construction to reduce cost. During the trials, the harvester was mounted on a trailer and towed by a ute. The next phase of research will investigate options for it to be mounted on a terrestrial drone to operate autonomously, at faster speeds, and higher accuracies. Ultimately, it is hoped that this technology will be commercialised in the near future.

Professor Walsh’s team has previously delivered a near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) measurement tool to assess the eating quality of mangoes and predict the ideal harvest time. NIRS sensors are now widely used by the mango industry.

Last updated: 25 September 2019

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