PROSSER, Wash. - A Washington State University researcher has received a grant allowing him to develop an apple-picking robot.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave $548,000 to an assistant professor with WSU's Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems, Manoj Karkee.
Karkee says he envisions a prototype within three to five years, with commercially available models within 10 years. He says he hopes to create a robot that can reach its dozen tentacles through the leaves of an apple tree to pick ripe fruit at four times the rate of humans.
His idea is to pair an automated machine with a field employee who would decide how and when to pick apples, when for example, they are obscured behind leaves or in clusters.