Robot lettuce pickers and the future of farming

July 15, 2013
The Lettuce Bot robot, which is equipped with video cameras and visual-recognition software, can thin a field of lettuce in the time it takes about 20 workers to do the same job by hand.

California-based startup Blue River Technology has introduced to the local farming community the concept of Lettuce Bot, arobot that thins a field of lettuce in the time it takes about 20 workers to do the same job by hand.

The process of “thinning” lettuce refers to the removal of excess plants to give space for others to grow into full lettuce heads. The Lettuce Bot robot usesvideo cameras and visual-recognition software to identify the heads of lettuce that need to be eliminated, which is done with a squirt of concentrated fertilizer that kills unwanted buds while enriching the soil.

Lettuce Bots are part of an ongoing trend ofagricultural mechanization that targets fruit and vegetables that are destined for the fresh market, not processing, according to an article from The Herald Sun. More and more researchers have been developing these types of robots, which include sensors, computer vision, robotic hardware, and algorithms, in addition to GPS localization technologies.

Jorge Heraud, one of the Lettuce Bot’s creators, toldModern Farmer that the idea of Lettuce Bot came about as a result of wanting to use him and his partner Lee Redden’s knowledge of robotics, computer vision, and machine learning algorithms to advance the growing field.

Prior to the Lettuce Bot being available for purchase, Blue River plans to start an operating service where it charges by the acre. This way, farmers can get a glimpse of how the Lettuce Bot will work in a more low-risk financial move.

Blue River has raised more than $3 million in venture capital and is also planning to develop machines to automate weeding and harvesting.

View the interview inModern Farmer.

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About the Author

James Carroll

Former VSD Editor James Carroll joined the team 2013.  Carroll covered machine vision and imaging from numerous angles, including application stories, industry news, market updates, and new products. In addition to writing and editing articles, Carroll managed the Innovators Awards program and webcasts.

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