Flying autonomous fruit-picking robots
Following a year dominated by the turmoil and uncertainty concerning the Covid-19 pandemic, Kubota has turned its eye to the future and invested $20 million in Tevel, an industry leader in the flying autonomous fruit-picking robot harvesting segment.
Every year, over 800 million tons of fruits are produced in an area of 70 million hectares worldwide, representing an annual market value of $1 trillion. Farmers spend annually $100 billion on fruit picking and recruit over 10 million temporary workers for a short period of time to pick their fruit. These seasonal workers are harder and harder to find, recruit, train, employ and provide temporary housing for.
Sourcing and operating field workers during the picking season is a major constraint that risks their investment and profitability for the season, as well as their ability to pick all of their fruit within a short and competitive time window. In addition, the complexity in crossing borders and international travel during the pandemic has further aggravated the labour shortage and increased the risk in fruit production by limiting the availability of migrant workers. Therefore, Tevel’s solution increases global food security by providing an available and reliable supply chain.
Tevel, founded in 2017 in Israel, is developing autonomous flying robots for fruit picking combining AI with computer vision, advanced robotics, aeronautical engineering, state-of-the-art flight control and data fusion and perception. Tevel has solved numerous technological challenges and is expected to implement commercial roll-out in 2021.
Tevel’s solution delivers the highest performance at the lowest cost, along with high levels of flexibility that enable the harvest of multiple fruit types. The strategic positioning of Kubota as a leader in global agriculture and equipment manufacturing, together with Tevel, will reinforce the company’s development of labour-saving and automation technology for fruit-picking and enable the launch of a solutions business utilising these technologies, that will contribute to labour-saving and efficiency improvement in farming.
“With our investment in Tevel, we partnered with one of the most advanced technology companies in fruit picking. Kubota is committed to help solve fruit growers’ problems in providing security for harvesting timing and quality and to deal with the increasing labour issues that growers are facing nowadays,” explains Peter van der Vlugt, General Manager of the Innovation Centre Europe.