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

Discussion in 'Commercial Winery Forum' started by candersen10, Feb 6, 2017.

  1. candersen10

    candersen10 Junior

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  2. havlikn

    havlikn Senior Member

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    Just my two cents, most vineyard operations have a four wheeler or tractor. Seems like you would need this to be pretty inexpensive for an operation to buy in. Not trying to drown your idea, but want to provide an insight from a grower.
     
  3. candersen10

    candersen10 Junior

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    Havlikn, good point. Our assumption (maybe wrong?) is that there are a lot of tasks such as picking where people are picking, then marching lugs back and forth to a larger collection point. If our Burro robot could carry 250 pounds of picked produce and run the route back to a collection point to be emptied before returning back to the picker, who could simply continue picking rather than making the trip, would that create any value?
     
  4. havlikn

    havlikn Senior Member

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    I have seen many vineyards that just pull a trailer behind an implement and then just move it ahead as they go on

    Now an area I could see a great application for a robot would be something to pick up all the printings in the spring. Time saver
     
  5. candersen10

    candersen10 Junior

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    Does this use case exist in many places (guys collecting bins to larger place by hand, or carrying bins to collection place by hand)? Or is everyone running a vineyard tractor with wagon behind it and picking up bins where they have been left by pickers? [​IMG]

    When you say picking up the printings (prunings) in the spring, is that job being done by hand with a lot of removal of the prunings by hand also? Or do you mean something different?
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2017
  6. havlikn

    havlikn Senior Member

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    I would say most people use machines and trailers. I meant to say prunings. Spell check isn't the greatest
     
  7. candersen10

    candersen10 Junior

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    Are guys removing prunings very proactively? Or do they just drop them to the ground and then take them into a windrow and then pick them up later with a tractor?
     
  8. havlikn

    havlikn Senior Member

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    People will use tractor but many may not have implement to drag the ground to pick them up
     
  9. candersen10

    candersen10 Junior

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    What if while pruning you had a cart behind with a large volume capacity bed to throw prunings right into? The cart could return to dump itself, and then come back to you. You would not have to get into a tractor at all and could just keep working.

    Value? Or none?
     
  10. havlikn

    havlikn Senior Member

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    Yes I see a purpose there
     
  11. candersen10

    candersen10 Junior

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    Any takers here for helping us sell something like this (selling for $4K or so - this product in a more commercial form (i.e. Robust, farm tough, etc.): http://www.agrbt.com/AGR Burro Overview.pdf) or perhaps in buying an early build? If interested, send me a note (charlie@agrbt.com).

    What would be a realistic price point? Running full tilt a single unit could replace 10 miles of material transport back and forth, and would run on its own so no need for an operator.

    In essence, a Burro would function as a virtual conveyor belt from a pick point to a collection point.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2017
  12. Johny99

    Johny99 Junior Member Supporting Member

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    Here is a picture of one. They were on very steep slopes, some were a monorail and others had two rails, elevated with a little engine (gas I guess) and cars.
     

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  13. candersen10

    candersen10 Junior

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    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017
  14. candersen10

    candersen10 Junior

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    Looking for feedback now on our concept. Could forum members check out this video (see link below), and give us an idea of whether something like this might create value?

    [ame="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-3Fk6O-ObE"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-3Fk6O-ObE[/ame]

    We've spent a lot of time talking with growers of hand picked crops like blueberries, raspberries, and table grapes. Now, looking for feedback from wine grape growers too (especially those who hand pick). Could you see a cart like this working in your operation as a labor saving device to keep pickers picking continuously rather than running crops to the end of rows?
     
  15. balatonwine

    balatonwine The Verecund Vigneron

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    I don't see the point of this product. It is a specialized tool and an added expense that can be done with existing tools the farmer already has. And how are empty trays delivered to the pickers? A obvious omission in this marketing video.

    Currently, our trays are placed into the center of the row empty, and filled by workers, and replaced into the row when full. A Tractor with tailer comes along driving over the trays, and a small crew picks up the full trays and stacks them on the trailer. Tractor then delivers a full load to the winery (so no extra tray transfer step needed as with this robot product). And picks up more empty trays to deliver to the field ahead of the workers (same crew goes down a to-be-picked row depositing empty trays). It is all simply a matter of managing the work flow properly. A robot following the picker around is not only not needed, but from my understanding of this simplistic video, a large operation might need as many as a quarter or half as many $8,000 robots as there are workers? Or do you just have a person walking a robot through the field and waiting (doing nothing and on paid time) while the robot makes a delivery of a rather small load to the collection point? Quite an expensive investment that is unnecessary, IMHO.

    By the way, our vineyards are on quite a slope. We are not growing raspberries, and vineyards can be in some challenging terrain. Nice videos of a tool on flat ground bouncing over not much more than little bumps. I bet our diesel 4x4 tractor can climb a steeper slope with a full trailer with many times more fruit weight than this little robot could handle on a flat surface. Again, don't see the advertised savings for us.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2017
  16. candersen10

    candersen10 Junior

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    balatonwine, thank you for the feedback. very helpful. A few points/clarifying questions below.

    (1) How large is your operation, and is percentage of time spent picking versus shuttling picked produce around a concern?

    (2) And how are empty trays delivered to the pickers? A obvious omission in this marketing video.
    We assume that a picker would send the robot back after removing a last empty tray, and that when the robot reached the collection point, the people unloading it would refill it with empty trays to return to the picker with.

    (3) Or do you just have a person walking a robot through the field and waiting (doing nothing and on paid time) while the robot makes a delivery of a rather small load to the collection point?
    We assume picker would continue picking into a removed empty bin while the robot ran back to be emptied, and returned empty, thus eliminating shuttling time and allowing the picker to just pick.

    (4) bet our diesel 4x4 tractor can climb a steeper slope with a full trailer with many times more fruit weight than this little robot could handle on a flat surface.
    Our small prototype is an early prototype; we believe we can engineer our robots to work quite nicely on very steep slopes (albeit with <400-500 lb payloads).

    (5) Overall, no point to our idea it sounds like in Vineyards?

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2017
  17. NorCal

    NorCal Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    We are getting ready to harvest our first 7.5 tons (head trained Mourvedre for Rose) tomorrow.

    Macrobins on a trailer are staged at the end of the rows. Each plant has around 10 lbs of fruit, 40 or so vines per row. So, every two or three rows, we get a full macro bin. The macro bin trailer is then taken by tractor to the weigh station, 1/8 mile away. In this scenario, I don't see applicability.

    However, we have other vineyards, where it is hard to get a macro bin in close proximity to the picking of the grapes. This is a much better application for the robot. One of the biggest problems, besides labor costs (Our CA minimum wage is going up $1 per/hour each year, all the way up to $15) is finding people to do the work, period. So, I see a growing need for innovative solutions that can take aid or take the place of field workers.
     
  18. candersen10

    candersen10 Junior

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    An update:

    Here is what we have now:

    And some more information on refined machines here: www.agrbt.com/products.html

    I think we've found that wine grapes aren't the best jumping off point, but that table grapes, blueberries, cane berries, and stone fruits seem like good ones. We are building towards those now.
     
  19. grapeman

    grapeman Administrator Administrator

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    One suggestion I would have for you for testing the prototype would be to use a loaded cart to test for stability on a normal field - including less than perfectly smooth terrain, hills, slight ruts from tractor operating in wet weather when sprayings need to be done even though ideally you would not rut the rows up. There are often rodent holes spring up from woodchucks, gophers, etc. Having used carts with beds the size you have, they are often not all that stable when loaded lets say 3 or 4 lugs high. That small caster wheel on the back could cause the cart to tip over on uneven ground. I think the product might have some use, but may need a bit of further refinement especially at $8000.
     
  20. candersen10

    candersen10 Junior

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    We have some improvements from the video in terms of prototype robustness [​IMG]

    Here are the types of operations we intend to run it in for early customers

    Does it look up for the task in those types of settings?
     
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