Israeli startup’s fruit-picking drones address global farm labor crisis - Maccabee Task Force

It is estimated that there will be five million missing fruit pickers worldwide by 2050

An Israeli startup hopes to save farmers billions of dollars and address the global shortage of farm workers with their flying autonomous robots (FARs) that pick fruit.

The robotic pickers, built by Tevel Aerobotics Technologies, can work all day, every day during the harvesting season.

Each FAR is equipped with advanced artificial intelligence, sensors, and cameras that allow it to determine whether a particular fruit is ready for picking, the best way to pick the fruit with its one-meter-long arm, and whether the fruit is marketable or not.

“We collect all the information, do data fusion on the video, then… calculate what is a fruit, what’s the best trajectory to access it, should we pick the fruit by rotating it clockwise or counterclockwise,” Tevel CEO Yaniv Maor told ISRAEL21c.

Tevel started with apples, but recently added peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots. Next year, the startup plans to harvest avocados with its FARs.

“Fruits are very high-value crops. You cultivate them for the whole year, then you have only one production time,” Maor explained.

Maor said that one of his robots can cover 2.5 acres during a harvesting season – a large farm could need up to 2,000 FARs.

He urged that Tevel’s tech will save farmers money.

“They won’t need as many people to pick. But the main reason is not the savings, but because the people are simply not available,” Maor said.

It is estimated that there will be five million missing fruit pickers worldwide by 2050.

In the United States, Mexican workers who made up the bulk of the industry’s pickers have not been returning post-Covid pandemic, mostly due to quotas and visa problems. In China, urbanization rapidly left many orchards with no one to work in them.

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