Science - November 6, 2010

Bell pepper picking robot in the making

Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture will develop a harvesting robot for bell peppers with funds from the European Union, which has set aside ten million euros for new research work into robots in the agriculture sector.

Wageningen UR will be the coordinator of CROPS, a project involving scientific institutes and companies in ten different countries. The project aims to develop new techniques for sensors, robotic arms, grippers and intelligence. Project leader Jan Bontsema says: 'We are going to develop fundamental knowhow, as well as practical applications. In the Netherlands, we will work closely with Jentjens Machinetechniek to develop a bell pepper harvesting machine. Various partners in other countries will develop an apple plucking robot, a machine to pluck grapes selectively for premium wine, and precision spray equipment for apple orchards.'
The subsidy for the project falls under the 'nanotechnology' theme of the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme. The various sub-projects should help to carry out European policies in the areas of environment, climate and food safety, and to strengthen the competitiveness of European industry. The KP7 programme will continue through 2013.