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NNU builds harvesting robot

NAMPA, IDAHO--From the Campus of Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, another Ag innovation… That not only furthers Ag but solves a growing problem…a labor problem.

NNU got a $132-thosand specialty crop grant from the State Department of Agriculture to develop an apple-picking robot.  The goal of the project is to develop an orchard robot (OrBot) that can be programmed to assist with harvesting fruit.

Engineering student Marina DeVleig:

“So it runs through a color filter and usually takes photos of fruit’s position and when it runs through the color filter it does it based off an RGB threshold, object shape and size, it detects the apple and filters out by the biggest apple, from that finds the center and that controls the PID filter,” said DeVleig.

The robot picks apples slower than a human but runs all day and night.

“The robot helps makeup labor shortages because it doesn’t need breaks, days off, or paid benefits: It's really huge,” said Professor Duke Bulanon. “Because I talk with the farmers and one of their problems is labor and workers using temporary visas and its very expensive. So robotics can really help. It will not replace humans, my hope is that it will work with humans.”

Engineering student Colton Burr says they’re perfecting the delivery system:

“ A depth sensor and we use to calculate the center of the apple and we have it preset to drop the apple right here, in the box and then it comes back to the home position,” said Burr.

The university has found a niche in Ag Engineering while farmers benefit from cutting-edge technology.