Scientists from Canterbury and Lincoln universities are trying to develop a vine-pruning robot they say could move at walking pace down vineyard rows and save New Zealand's horticulture industry $27.5 million a year.
The team, led by the Canterbury University's Richard Green, has received almost $3m in funding from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology to develop an intelligent vision-based pruning system.
They will spend the next four years on the project, which will use artificial intelligence (AI) to recognise plant features and synchronise multiple cameras and high-speed robot arm pruners to do the labour-intensive task of pruning grape vines.
It is estimated to provide savings of $27.5m each year to the New Zealand wine industry through increased productivity and reduced yield losses. The system would be manufactured in New Zealand and was forecast to earn New Zealand exporters over $200 million within 10 years of entry into the market.
"Such a fast vision-based pruning system is only possible using recently developed camera technology with efficient cutting edge computer vision-based tracking and AI algorithms," Dr Green said.
"We are leading the world with fast accurate colour 3D depth maps of vines, light robot cutting arms and the AI to coordinate this moving at walking speed."
The robot could maintain a higher quality by pruning consistently and accurately while recognising disease and age of vines, Dr Green said.
The industry would also be able to guarantee pruning within the very brief seasonal window each year.
The technology could also be applied to general harvesting and pruning in the wider agriculture industry, he said.
The research is being undertaken with the support of Scott Technology, developers of image-based robot systems, the New Zealand Wine Growers Association and the largest NZ wine and spirit company Pernod Ricard NZ.
source: newshub archive