Meet Tom Coen, the CEO of Octinion. He is on a mission to use robotics to transform fruit harvesting.
And Meet Pedro, a helicopter pilot whose world is soon to be disrupted by Daniel.
In this article, I predict how huge fruit-picking robots will be by 2030 on a scale of 1 to 10 based on looking at:
- The technology needed
- The companies making it happen
- What's to love
- jobs that will be hired.
Fruit-picking robots will be huge if the three major technology challenges are solved.
Identifying ripe fruit
By 2030, the technology needed to identify ripe fruit will be solved.
Today, Kaya's strawberry pickers decide which fruit is ripe to pick.
How does Tom do this with technology? He uses stereo vision cameras that allow the robot to “see” in 3D form. With the help of a machine learning algorithm trained on more than a thousand ripe fruit images, it decides if it is ready for harvest.
Tevel's robot spots ripe fruits. As you see here apples. But also it can do oranges and avocados.
Pick the fruit
The technology to pick the fruit is Solved. By 2030, advances in end-of-arm tooling technologies are giving robots more subtle grips, allowing them to pick softer fruits.
Firstly it uses proximity sensors to guide its arm to reach out to the fruit.
Once in position, the arm's soft cushioned plastic paws open up and grip carefully.
The gripper then turns the fruit 90 degrees to snap it off its stalk and put the fruit in a container.
There is a differently designed robot for each type of fruit - here you see Root AI's tomato picking robot.
The technology that Tom uses to measure it all is solved. Tom gets real-time data on his robotic fruit pickers via his tablet. The app provides real time updates on...time to complete...quantity picked...and total cost.
Fruit Picking Robots will be huge if there are unicorns - startup companies that have a valuation of more than a billion dollars and when there's plenty of big established companies.
Octinion, the Belgium-based engineering company is on its way to becoming a unicorn. Tom is an engineering PHD and founded the company in 2009. It's Rubion robot launched in 2019 the first autonomous strawberry picking robot.
Based in Israel, Tevel is growing. Yaniv Maor is the CEO and is a computer scientist by training. It's pioneering these incredible flying fruit picking robots.
Abundant Robotics is also a company driving things forward. Founded in 2016, its investors include Google Ventures. Its robot gently sucks the ripe apples off the tree. The development team alternates between the northern and southern hemispheres to catch two harvests per year by also picking in New Zealand.
Big companies are also active including KUBOTA and John Deere.
Investing in startups
Farm equipment manufacturers like Kubota from Japan are investing in startups. They put $20 million into Tevel.
John Deere acquired the startup Blue River Technology which includes capabilities to farm lettuces (which I know aren't quite a fruit).
Now we look at Love. Fruit picking robots will be huge if they attract plenty of 5-star ratings and a few 1 stars.
They score 5 stars for low prices.
By 2030 robots will increase fruit picking efficiencies reducing prices for the shopper. Robots can work all day and night, without stopping for breaks.
These robots will be able to pick 360kg of strawberries per day; whereas a human fruit picker can only pick about 50kg of strawberries in an 8-hour shift.
Less waste scores 5 stars. Right now, between a quarter and a third of food frequently rots in the field and is wasted. A robot can easily come back to the same field multiple times to pick any stragglers.
Feeding the planet
Robotic fruit picking gets a 5-star rating for feeding the planet. Scientists predict the global population will grow from 7.8 billion today to 10 billion by 2050. Without continued increases in farm output, we will not have enough food for this population. On top of this, many growers are facing shortages of fruit pickers. Instead of viewing the robots as a threat, farmers and consumers alike can start seeing them as allies in the battle to feed us all.
If fruit-picking robots are going to be huge there will be lots of jobs hired and fired.
Some fruit Pickers will be replaced by fruit picking robots and fired.
On the hired side, the Tevel Aerobotics Technologies team has 1 vacancy on LinkedIn at the time of recording.
They are looking for a Software Integrator to join the team.
Even though there aren't many jobs yet, It's well worth looking at LinkedIn if you're interested in getting a job in this sector. Jobs in fast-growing new sectors like robotic fruit picking are exciting and often more secure than in older sectors.Helping you make good career decisions is a big reason why I'm doing this Life in 2030 channel. Jobs in fast growing new sectors like fruit picking robots are exciting and more secure than in older sectors.
You can find jobs in the fruit picking sector all around the world. Octinion is in Belgium. Tevel is headquartered in Israel and Abundant Robotics is located in the US. You could set up some job alerts for these companies. It's easy to do on LinkedIn..
You could set up some job alerts for these companies. It's easy to do on LinkedIn. Because there are few jobs being hired and fired, from a Jobs point of view, fruit picking robots are at the lower end of the scale