May 31, 2023

Airborne apples: Flying robots report for harvesting duty

The future has flown into apple harvesting. Chilean company Unifrutti has harvested apples using robots from Israeli start-up Tevel.

Tevel’s autonomous harvesting system harvested several apple varieties in Unifrutti Chile’s orchards from March to May.

Unifrutti growers gather for a demonstration of Tevel’s apple harvesting robots. Photo courtesy of Unifrutti Chile and Tevel.

“As agritech plays a vital role in the future of Unifrutti and our industry, we see this partnership with Tevel as a significant investment in the future of the fruit industry,” German Illanes, general manager of Unifrutti in Chile, said in a news release. “Together, we are driving progress and setting new standards for excellence. We are excited to have found in Tevel the right partner to move forward with and make a positive impact in the industry.”

“This partnership is a testament that Tevel’s technology is the most cutting-edge solution for growers who want to elevate their harvesting to the next level,” Yaniv Maor, CEO and founder of Tevel, said in the release. “This marks a major milestone in the industry’s transformation towards adopting robotics and automation.

The global agriculture industry has faced significant challenges in the past decade because of labor shortages during harvests, resulting in lower fruit quality, higher labor costs and lost revenue from unpicked fruit. Tevel’s autonomous harvesting technology addresses these issues by using what it calls advanced Flying Autonomous Robots for precise, gentle and efficient fruit picking. Tevel’s robots are powered by A.I., computer vision and machine-learning algorithms.

Yaniv Maor, CEO and founder of Tevel, left, with German Illanes, general manager of Unifrutti in Chile. Photo courtesy of Unifrutti and Tevel.

The harvesting system features 8 Flying Autonomous Robots mounted on a ground harvesting platform developed by Darwin Harvesting Group.

Throughout the harvesting operations in Chile, Tevel made strides in the overall system performance and reliability, and selective picking to ensure the harvesting of the highest-quality fruit. The fruit picked by the robots and delivered to onboard bins were subsequently sent to Unifrutti’s packing facility for detailed data analysis, which demonstrated the system’s ability to successfully perform selective picking as well as minimize bruising.

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