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EVE: The Autonomous Fruit-Picking Robot of Ripe Robotics

company logo for Ripe Robotics Ripe Robotics

Country: Australia

Year: 2019

Summary

The EVE robot by Ripe Robotics is revolutionizing fruit picking (apples, peaches, and other stone fruits) and tackling labor shortages

Status: Prototype, In development, Startup

Operation: Autonomous

Robot Type / Domain: Agriculture & Forestry

Tasks: Fruit-picking robot, Autonomously pick apples and stone fruit

Whimsical Intro (by addoobot)

One apple a day keeps the doctor away, but not EVE. Not even an orchard will keep it away. Will be there day or night, rain or shine, — no orchard too big, no apple too small!

Learn More

The Core Problem: A Labor of Love and Loss

Across the lush farms of Australia, there is a significant challenge — heavy reliance on seasonal labor, which is becoming increasingly difficult to secure. Many local workers prefer a stable and steady source of income. As a result, many of the farm workers come from abroad, which further complicates securing labor, especially in times of global crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. These issues, along with the complexity of the Visa program, the physically demanding nature of fruit-picking jobs, and the costs of labor, are causing significant labor shortages. Consequently, a staggering amount of fruit is left to rot, substantially impacting farmers’ livelihoods and contributing to food wastage.

This problem is not unique to Australia, as many other countries around the world are facing similar challenges, highlighting the universal need for innovative solutions in agricultural labor.

Introduction to a Fruitful Future by EVE

Now imagine a world where fruits never go to waste, and even better, they are picked efficiently at just the right time without any damages to the fruits. This is the future that Ripe Robotics is building today through their fruit-picking robot, EVE. Not only that, they are driven by the ambitious goal of fully automating agriculture.  

EVE robot is currently designed to pick apples, peaches, and other stone fruits in orchard designs like the 2D planar or V-trellis systems. In doing so, it aims to pick fruits with utmost precision and care.

Here’s how it works: EVE approaches a tree, and using artificial intelligence and other algorithms, it detects fruits and then plans its motion for picking a fruit. then, it extends its robotic arm, which is equipped with a gentle suction cup, to secure the fruit. With a careful twist, the fruit is plucked and placed into a bin.

Pay-as-You-Pick: A Great Business Model

Ripe Robotics stands out not only because they have a great robot but also because of their unique business model. Unlike traditional sale or lease of equipment, Ripe Robotics charges orchard operators on a per-bin basis. This is much like hiring a human picker. Therefore, growers only pay for the service when and where they need it, without the upfront cost of purchasing expensive machinery or robots.

Challenges and Opportunities

The technology and business model presented by Ripe Robotics are promising, and given the significance of the problem being addressed, there is a real opportunity for running a successful business. In saying that, the path to success is not without its bumps. The unpredictable nature of outdoor environments (e.g., varying weather conditions and uneven terrain) poses many challenges. To operate in such environments, not only do the robots need to be incredibly smart, but they also must be adaptable and quick to handle unexpected situations and uncertain conditions effectively.

How Ripe Robotics Could Shape the Future of Farming

As Ripe Robotics deploys and tests its robot, EVE, in more farms and scenarios, it can gather more data. This data will help improve EVE and increase its efficiency and accuracy for fruit picking.  

However, fruit picking is just the start for Ripe Robotics. Their robot is equipped with advanced AI that analyzes each fruit for size, color, and quality. The capability to devise such technology means Ripe Robotics could soon extend the operation of their robots to handle thinning, pruning, and spraying, transforming them into full-fledged farmhands.

Not only could this technology significantly reduce food waste, but it could also revolutionize farming, making it more sustainable, efficient, and less reliant on fluctuating labor markets.

Brief History

Ripe Robotics was founded in 2019 in Victoria, Australia. It has received a modest amount of funding which has been used to substantially improve its flagship robot, EVE.

The company has conducted trials in Shepparton (a city located in northern Victoria) but is aiming to expand its operation beyond Shepparton in 2025. Having successfully demonstrated the robot prototype’s ability to autonomously pick fruits, the next step for the company is to scale up and prepare their robots for commercialization.

Technical Specifications

• 2D planar or V-trellis Orchards

• Fruits: peaches, apples, plums, nectarine,...

• Advanced AI to assess each fruit

Number of Wheels: 4

Wheels: Standard wheels, Steerable wheels

Manipulation: arm, gripper / hand

No more specs to show.

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Comment by addoobot - Our Perspective

Although at first glance, it might seem that EVE's picking speed doesn't yet match that of skilled human workers, we see significant potential for this technology. With ongoing advancements, the robot may not only meet but greatly surpass human performance in terms of speed and efficiency. Not to mention, such a robot doesn’t need to sleep, take breaks, or go on holidays—it can even work all night!

addoorable score:
6.60/10
The EVE robot is designed to get busy and dirty on the farm, not to win any beauty contests. But who says it can't look 'addoorable' in future iterations? What do you think? Let us know below!

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