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Developing a Robot for Fruit Growers - what do you think?

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candersen10

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Hello, my name is Charlie and I am working to build a robot for fruit growers. Here is a video of an early prototype: [ame="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rzl5cuP6yLY"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rzl5cuP6yLY[/ame].

What do you think about this? The product is a robotic cart that follows the user, and can also return to a specified point on command. On my farm, it would be very useful for harvesting apples and grapes, and also for spreading mulch (as shown in the video) and in other tasks where I'd otherwise be jumping into/out of a skid steer to spread small bits of material or collect objects.

The cart will be built out of aluminum so will not corrode, and should weigh about 100 pounds and be able to carry 250 pounds or so (at least several bushels of apples).

Any thoughts or feedback on the idea? What might you pay for something like this?
 
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grapeman

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No way to tell how we like it when the video just shows an error. I tried searching You tube but I can't find it. Better try again to add a link to it. Thanks
 

NorCal

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I think there will be a market for grape harvesting in the next 5 years in CA. Minimum wage is going from the current $10.50 to $15.00, in steps of $1 per year. Frankly I think it will be really bad for these workers, because their jobs will be disappearing. There will not be waitresses at restaurants, all table top electronics where you order and pay for food. Same at fast food places. I can see it like the back of my hand.

I manage 20 acres of vines for our community and we contract out everything. The biggest expense is the contractor's labor, which I foresee going up significantly. A cart that could serve as a collection point for the workers cutting grapes and shuttles to/from the macro bin would be useful and replace a significant amount of the labor in our operation. Same goes for pruning. It takes as much labor to remove all the clipped canes as it does to clip them.

So, even if you don't see people getting real excited about it today, know the economics in CA may change their point of view in the future.
 

Johny99

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Neat idea. Now if you can make it climb a 20 degree slope I could put it to work! Seriously, I think the load capacity would have to increase but I sure like the idea of not having to get on and off the tractor all the time:h
 

candersen10

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How much load capacity would you like? I'm imagining there are tasks (harvesting, pruning, etc.) where you don't need much more than a few hundred pounds of payload. What did you have in mind though?
 

candersen10

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What will be the price per unit?
For first couple hundred, we would try to sell them for between $4 and 5K. Price will come down as we scale up. This is a cost up (what it costs us to build), not value/price down (the value a customer would get from one) estimate.

For $4-5K you'd get 250 pound payload capacity, 5 miles run time on a charge, following capability and return to set point/return to home, and an aluminum build for corrosion resistance.

If it did the work we've explained (followed, returned along path to home point, carried 250 pounds, traveled up to 5 miles on a charge), does that price sound realistic?
 
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NorCal

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At $16 loaded, 8-10 hours per day, if it could replace a runner, it would pay for itself in a few months. My biggest concern would be its ability to navigate the vineyard.
 

Johny99

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How much load capacity would you like? I'm imagining there are tasks (harvesting, pruning, etc.) where you don't need much more than a few hundred pounds of payload. What did you have in mind though?
On my terrain, I'd say ~300 lbs or so. But for me slope and terrain is important. Those on flat ground might think differently. Then again, I'm jealous of the little elevatated tram systems I saw in vineyards and olive groves in Italy:db
 

candersen10

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At $16 loaded, 8-10 hours per day, if it could replace a runner, it would pay for itself in a few months. My biggest concern would be its ability to navigate the vineyard.
NorCal - when you say $16 loaded are you referring to a $16 labor rate? Sorry, didn't understand that part of your comment.

Regarding navigation, in your operations, are there paths that an operator would walk that are decently maintained, or is everything a 90 degree slope with mud etc. (I'm exaggerating of course)? Our plan would be for the robot to just exactly retrace the first path the operator walked to return to home.
 

candersen10

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On my terrain, I'd say ~300 lbs or so. But for me slope and terrain is important. Those on flat ground might think differently. Then again, I'm jealous of the little elevatated tram systems I saw in vineyards and olive groves in Italy:db
Johny99, do you have a link anywhere to the elevated tram systems that you have seen? If so would love to see it. Thanks!
 

NorCal

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NorCal - when you say $16 loaded are you referring to a $16 labor rate? Sorry, didn't understand that part of your comment.

Regarding navigation, in your operations, are there paths that an operator would walk that are decently maintained, or is everything a 90 degree slope with mud etc. (I'm exaggerating of course)? Our plan would be for the robot to just exactly retrace the first path the operator walked to return to home.
Loaded = min wage + taxes, benefits. Of course the terrain of vineyards is quite varied. The applicability would be those vineyards that are large, but are not designed for mechination. This would typically mean head trained, poor spacing, hilly terrain etc.
 

candersen10

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An interesting and relevant article today out of the Wine show in Sacramento.
NorCal - super interesting for sure! Thanks for sharing.

From our perspective, it seems like the low hanging fruit (no pun intended) for near term commercial robotics is with fairly simple products, however, rather than very complex pruning robots which are still a few years away from what we see for widespread commercial use.
 

Johny99

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Johny99, do you have a link anywhere to the elevated tram systems that you have seen? If so would love to see it. Thanks!
I'll post a picture when I get home next week. If I forget, pm me.
 

candersen10

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Any feedback on the unit economics shown here?

Any feedback on the unit economics shown here for a laborer in harvest and transit time etc.?

Capture.JPG
 

Boatboy24

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I'm curious as to the travel speed you have. 3mph isn't a blistering pace, but it's not crawling either. Can the robot actually do that effectively and safely?
 

candersen10

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I'm curious as to the travel speed you have. 3mph isn't a blistering pace, but it's not crawling either. Can the robot actually do that effectively and safely?
Boatboy, it seems to do fine at that speed. 3 MPH is generally around average walking speed. Loaded up very heavily on bumpier ground with 3 or 4 plastic lugs on top it would have to be slowed a bit perhaps.
 

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