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Israel - Mixed feelings towards apple picking robot

In what is becoming a worldwide trend in agriculture, the process of apple picking is set to be revolutionized by the invention of an autonomous robot that can replace the need for manpower and improve harvest results.
“One robot will replace 30-40 workers”, promises the inventor of the robot, Avi Kehani of FFRobotics, “The machine will know to pick fruit when it is ripe and the quality of the harvest will be better. Additionally, the robot will have multiple arms on each side so that the work rate will be impressive.”
The developers of the robot have been working on it for nearly two years and have registered it as a global patent. While it is still under development, the final robot will have 12 arms, 6 on each side, and will be able to pick hundreds of tons of fruit per day. A major advantage of automating the harvest process is that the robot could operate continuously with minimal supervision and work under various weather conditions.
In regards to cost, the plan is for the robot to be “cheap enough to where it pays off using it over using harvest crews”. That is expected to mean a cost of some 200 thousand dollars per robot, making its cost similar to that of a tractor.
Despite the innovation that such a development brings to the field, it is received with mixed feelings by the growers who are wary of giving up on employing their laborers. A veteran apple grower who assisted the development of the robot said that “as an older grower I feel odd about taking labor out of the harvest, but unfortunately we are seeing the situation we have in agriculture these days and we need to start making a profit, making our investments pay off.”
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