Mon, 14 June, 2021
TWI has joined the Robo-Pack Project alongside fellow partners, Shadow Robot Company, Wootzano, London South Bank University, Suncrop Produce Ltd, and Impact Laboratories Ltd.
The Innovate UK-funded project is working to develop an advanced, fully automated robotic manipulator for rapid inspection and packing of fresh produce.
Difficulties in attracting sufficient numbers of workers for produce packing is a direct threat to an affordable and secure supply for the UK. The agricultural and food manufacturing sector are increasingly looking towards technology to address this shortfall in labour.
The UK deals with over £13 billion of fresh produce each year, of which 70% is sourced and imported by the supply and packing industry to meet demand. Being able to use robotic manipulation to pack fruit and vegetables would be a huge leap forwards since these items tend to be delicate and have irregular shapes, meaning that human handlers have been required for this work to select unblemished products for packing.
The project consortium are developing an advanced robotic manipulator that is able to inspect and pack fresh produce, with the initial focus being on tomatoes. The Robo-Pack system will incorporate proprietary tactile sensing and robot manipulation technology systems.
TWI are contributing to the development of the automatic visual inspection system to ensure the fruit is clean and free from externally visually detectable rots, moulds, mechanical damage, dry splitting, scars or breakdown.
The Robo-Pack project has received funding from Innovate UK under No 104294