Robots to cut vegetables from greenhouses? At the very least this is the goal of the National Optics Institute (INO), which contributes to the automation project to pick mushrooms and cucumbers.
“For our part, we make the robot’s eyes. It helps to give him intelligence. He can locate vegetables in the greenhouse and take them with his robotic hand without crushing them,” he suggests. Journal Alain Chandonet, CEO of INO.
The second view is that this technology can compensate for the labor shortage among greenhouse breeders. Using sophisticated vision systems, these robots must also be capable of picking ripe cucumbers.
INO, which specializes in optics and photonics, has been working with the Wineland Research and Innovation Center in Ontario on this project for about two years.
“We provide technology and knowledge about vineyland plants,” Chandonet explains. Models of autonomous robots are already on wheels. “Yes, there are tests,” he said.
The Quebec company leader believes the technology could one day be applied to almost all greenhouse crops.
“Gradually, we should increase the list of fruits and vegetables available,” Mr. Chandonet said.
According to INO, the deployment of such robots in the food sector should allow manufacturers to increase their production capacity and reduce their losses.
Cultivation capacity is between 20% and 25%, which is currently exploited due to lack of manpower. We will significantly increase the food we produce, ”Chandonet said.
“With robots, this allows us to plunder the full potential of crops. The goal is that in the long run, we can no longer prevent sowing because we no longer have people to harvest,” he continues, hoping the technology will be commercialized in two or three years.
This tool can prove to be an asset as the Legalt government wants to increase food self-sufficiency in Quebec, which is less than 50%.
Even for fields?
INO has in recent years worked with Lapalm Concept Mechanics on the development of a robot prototype called SAMI (Intelligent Multifunctional Agricultural System) to assist farmers in the fields.
Preliminary tests were conducted on the broccoli field in the summer of 2020.
Quebec has announced a $ 75 million grant to INO to support its projects over the next five years. Management hopes to get the same amount from Ottawa.
– With Sylvain Loroque