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Autonomous affordable robot for tomato harvesting in passive environments

Project description

Building a tomato-harvesting robot

Tomatoes are the world's second-most harvested vegetable, and the industry is globally valuable – both economically and in terms of health. Manual harvesting of tomatoes is a challenge due to rising labour costs and increasing demand for food from a growing global population. The EU-funded AUTOMATO project is building an autonomous robot to harvest tomatoes in greenhouses using cloud-based monitoring, control and yield analysis. The system will be affordable, offering savings of EUR 62 000 per worker over five years. The first phase of the project will validate all the technical, commercial and financial viability aspects; the second phase will finalise technical development and field test the new device.


The tomato is the second most harvested vegetable worldwide with 177M tons of tomatoes harvested each year globally, 68% of which are handpicked and consumed fresh. All current harvest in greenhouses is based on manual labour with harvest accounting for 30-50% of labour time. Manual production currently faces the challenge of feeding a growing human population, an international labour crisis which poses a serious threat to production in farms as seen across Europe, with Spain hiring 7,000 Moroccan farm workers in 2017 and UK farm produce rotting due to migrant labour shortage and rising wage bill for workers among others.
In 2017 the Netherlands exported tomatoes worth €1.8B making it the largest exporter of tomatoes in the world and 3rd placed Spain exports were valued at € 1B. The value associated with tomatoes is not only economic but also nutritional, providing Vitamins C, A and K, potassium and antioxidants.
AUTOMATO seeks to deliver a robot that autonomously moves, detects and harvests tomatoes in passive environments. It is the first solution that brings automation with cloud work monitoring and robot maintenance management, control and yield analysis to tomato harvest in passive environments. AUTOMATO is set to be the most affordable harvest robot on the market at €35k vs €100k+. Sold at €35k it can be used for 5 years at an operating cost of €63k compared to a worker who is paid €25k - €27k per year. AUTOMATO will achieve savings of €62k per worker in 5 years.
Agriculture Robot Market was valued at €3.04 billion in 2017 and is growing at a CAGR of 21.1% to reach €10B by 2023.
In the Phase 1 project we seek to validate the technical, commercial and financial viability of AUTOMATO, while in our Phase 2 project we will finalise the technical developments of the robot, conduct demonstration and validation tests.
Through this project we forecast to make revenues of €25.5M by the 4th year of commercialization and ROI in 3.5 years and also create 44 new jobs.

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Net EU contribution
€ 50 000,00

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The organization defined itself as SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) at the time the Grant Agreement was signed.

Activity type
Private for-profit entities (excluding Higher or Secondary Education Establishments)
Total cost
€ 71 429,00