All images/graphics may be copyrighted and property of the author, creator and/or University of Auckland.

Archie Snr: The Robot Redefining Apple Fruitlet Thinning

Creator: University of Auckland

Country: New Zealand

Year: 2023


Robotically Mapping Apple Fruitlets in a Commercial Orchard with Hight Accuracy and Precision - Automatic Apple Fruitlet Thinning Robot

Status: Prototype, Research

Operation: Autonomous

Robot Type / Domain: Research, Agriculture & Forestry

Tasks: Apple Fruitlet Thinning, Measuring Crop Load

Whimsical Intro (by addoobot)

Forget counting sheep, this robot counts apples while you sleep! Never lose count again — welcome to the world of precision apple counting with Archie Snr. And that’s not all; it's thinning out the competition - literally. Discover how it keeps apple trees just right.

Learn More

Understanding Fruitlet Thinning: A Critical Practice in Orchard Management

In many countries, such as New Zealand, the apple and pear industry plays a crucial role in the economy. In New Zealand alone, the export value of these fruits is projected to reach $2 billion by 2030. This projection reflects the growth of this industry in many other countries around the globe. 

A vital practice for the success of this industry is fruitlet thinning. This is the process of removing young or damaged fruitlets from the tree early in the growing season to prevent the tree from becoming overburdened with fruits. Overburdening the tree with fruits can result in smaller or lower-quality produce and could even damage the tree's future yield potential. Therefore, proper thinning ensures the remaining fruits grow to a desirable size and quality. 

Challenges of Manual Fruitlet Thinning: Labor Shortages and Inconsistencies

The task of fruitlet thinning presents significant challenges. Not only do workers need to find out the number of fruitlets per tree with reasonable accuracy, but they also need to make a proper judgment on how many and which fruitlets to remove. This tedious work becomes even more challenging since not all fruitlets are easily visible in the dense foliage. Thus, human error and fatigue can lead to variability in crop quality. 

Furthermore, due to the seasonal nature of this work, securing labor is difficult. This is particularly true for more specialized tasks, such as manual thinning, as skilled laborers are increasingly hard to find. The above issues are significant for orchard operators as they strive to maintain high standards of fruit production.

Introducing Robotic Precision to Fruitlet Thinning - Archie Snr

The development of Archie Snr, a promising robotic solution for automated fruitlet thinning, addresses both the labor shortage and the need for precision. 

This robotic platform uses cameras (with advanced computer vision), sophisticated algorithms, and artificial intelligence (such as deep learning) to create a detailed 3D map and accurately detect fruitlets. The map and the detected fruitlets (with information about their size and location) will assist in estimating the number of fruitlets and planning the thinning task.

Such a robotic thinning platform will help tackle the labor shortage associated with seasonal work as it can be deployed whenever needed and continuously carry out the task day and night with little or no downtime. In addition, unlike human workers whose decisions on thinning strategy can vary from person to person and level of fatigue, this robot can achieve consistency in terms of precision and accuracy. With further advancements, such robots can perform automated thinning faster, more accurately, and more consistently than manual methods. 

More About Archie Snr: Revolutionizing Commercial Orchards

Archie Snr, a state-of-the-art robotic platform designed with the apple industry in mind, stands over 3.4 meters tall and straddles the tree rows. It is equipped with UR5 robotic arms on either side. The robot arms are mounted on linear rails which allow them to move up and down, enabling the robotic system to efficiently scan the tree, level by level.

The robot arms not only enable the extraction of unwanted fruitlets but also allow the appropriate positioning of the cameras (mounted on the end of the robot arms) to map a larger number of fruitlets with better accuracy and precision. Therefore, this intricate setup ensures that every fruitlet, hidden or visible, is accounted for.

As for designing the Archie Snr to straddle the tree, this was a decision to enhance the robot's operation and accuracy across various environmental conditions. Not only does this setup protect the cameras from direct sunlight and minimize the effect of winds, but it also allows the robotic platform to operate under varied lighting conditions (even at night by turning on built-in lights). 

The Future of Orchard Management: Advancements and Expectations

Looking ahead, for New Zealand's apple industry and global agriculture, the future is not just robotic; it's brighter, more precise, and most importantly, more sustainable. Although we are just at the beginning of the journey and various challenges remain, the continued refinement of such technologies holds significant potential to scale up operations without compromising on quality.

Technical Specifications

• Counting accuracy of 81.17%

• Precision of 80.3% & Recall of 92.6%

• Produce size estimates within 5.9% RMSE

Size:  3400H (mm)

Size:  133.858H (in)

Number of Wheels: 4

Wheels: Standard wheels

Manipulation: arm, other

Robot Arm: UR5 robotic arm

Sensors: Stereo cameras that are mounted on either side of Archie Snr. allow it to scan the tree from multiple viewpoints. Basler acA2440-35uc USB 3.0 cameras.

Software: Ubuntu 20.04, ROS

No more specs to show.

Please visit the official website for more accurate, up-to-date, and complete information on this post. Visit website   External Link Icon

Comment by addoobot - Our Perspective

What we find particularly interesting about Archie Snr is its two-sided operation with a design that straddles the tree and integrates robotic arms to achieve higher accuracy no matter the environmental conditions. The accuracy is already impressive (approximately 81% accuracy, with 80% precision and 93% recall), but with further improvements, particularly in its speed, the robotic platform has a real potential to revolutionize this industry. 

addoorable score:
We pick novelty, usefulness, and impact as the top three appealing qualities of this robotic platform. However, the design of it is meant to be practical and mighty rather than 'addoorable'. But you may disagree with our judgment - let us know what you think below.

Disclaimer: For informational purposes only. The provided data and/or content are intended as references and may contain errors. We appreciate your help in maintaining accuracy; if you spot any errors, please notify us. For the most reliable and up-to-date information, kindly refer to the official website. By using addoobot and its contents and services, you agree to our Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy, and Cookie Policy.

Thumbs Down Icon Thumbs Up Icon
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Select appealing qualities


Sign in to comment, reply, and more

No Comments Yet

Be the first to share your thoughts!