Such is the speed of technological change that the fruit industry, having just absorbed the significance of mechanical pruning and thinning, now has to address the implications of robotic orchard operations.
Dutch company Probotiq, working with NP Seymour Ltd. offers a fully robotic Fendt tractor and, working with Dutch spraying engineers Hol Spraying Systems (HSS), offers a robotic orchard spraying unit. Whilst expensive, they offer growers the opportunity to substitute manpower with driverless technology.
In Europe the smaller fruit farm is often run by one man. His expertise can be released by a robotic system, redirecting it into other activities and enabling improved fruit production. To UK users, if manpower disappears through a lack of availability, then robotics may be a lifesaver.
Probotiq and Fendt are well suited, with Fendt tractors having variomatic transmission. Once a unit has been programmed with all of the parameters of the farm and its operations, it will follow commands at all times. The cost is £35,000 in addition to the cost of the tractor.
The HSS unit is a Greenbot radial spray rig and is modular, to accept other attachments for mowing, root pruning, thinning etc. Hendrik Hol of HSS said that the cost is 150,000 Euros. The machine can be configured for every farm situation and operational detail.