The Rubion robot developed by mechatronic startup Octinion uses photonic sensors to detect the wavelengths of light, or the ‘signatures’ given off from a ripe, red strawberry according to a pre-programmed set of characteristics. It then uses a patented ‘soft touch gripper’ to pick the strawberries, without doing any more damage to the fruits than a human would, without cutting or burning the stem.
It would take just 14 of these new robots less than 7 days to pick and package all the perfect, red, unblemished strawberries needed for Wimbledon, each Rubion bot picking and packaging between 180 and 360 kilograms of ripe strawberries every single day (at a rate of about one every 5 seconds).
To put this into perspective, depending on the skill and experience, an enthusiastic human picker can collect around 50 kilograms in a day but will need to take breaks, be prepared to work for very little and can be tempted to eat some of the sumptuous berries.
From beneath, the robot picks individual strawberries grown in raised bedding a few feet off the floor and can sort the fruits by size or weight and pack into punnets as it goes along.
For this development, R&D company Octinion was supported by the EU-backed ACTPHAST 4.0 photonics innovation incubator.