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Greenhouse Robotic Worker - The first high-performance robotic system for automated harvesting of vegetables in greenhouses

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GRoW (Greenhouse Robotic Worker - The first high-performance robotic system for automated harvesting of vegetables in greenhouses)

Reporting period: 2019-11-01 to 2020-10-31

The growing world population is calling for a new wave of innovations in agriculture, with the objective to produce more food in a sustainable way. Smart and automated indoor farming is seen as a way to extend the crops production throughout the year, independently from weather conditions.
However, despite recent technological advances in processes automation, much of labor-intensive greenhouse operations are still performed manually. This is due to the fact that even most advanced robots are not able to deal with a “living” environments, where the unpredictability is a key factor.
In fact, unlike to industrial production lines, lighting conditions in agriculture are extremely variable, thus robot optics must be adaptable, so as the handling (gripping) tool has to be when dealing with the soft fruits.
The lack of automation is a real bottleneck hindering an effective greenhouse management.
This owes to substantial demographic shifts where the interest in manual labor as an occupation is decreasing globally and workfoce shortage brings dramatic consequences in many countries: this leads to 20% - 30% unharvested crops left to rot, meaning millions dollars of economic losses to growers.1
At Metomotion we are making greenhouse farming more sustainable and profitable by introducing GRoW (Greenhouse Robotic Worker), the 1st multi-purpose robotic solution for greenhouse farming.
Thanks to the proprietary advanced 3D vision system and machine learning based computational algorithms, as well as flexible picking system and autonomous driving, GRoW is fully automated harvesting and boxing system poised to meet all relevant market requirements:
- accurate (error rate < 5 %)
- fast (harvesting rate > 550 kg/hour)
- easy to use and cost-effective, with an expected payback time of less than 3 years.
The project prepares the commercial GRoW launch, starting from the current TRL6 level.
The focus is to ensure that the overall assembly process is designed to meet the standards of large-scale manufacturing process.
From the R&D point of view, all the components of the new commercial version of the product, as well as the design and the costs of all the robot sub-systems were defined. A risk assessment strategy was defined to assess and mitigate the technical and commercial risks of the project.
The robotic arm, the end-effector and a fully operational boxing system were produced and tested, ready to be integrated in the final system. The machine vision system was improved up to achieve almost the 100% of accuracy in fruit detection.
All the parts of the electrical systems and the electrical scheme of the AGV were designed, including the batteries, the power supply unit, the safety systems and the communication systems of the computing unit motors controllers (22 motors) (CANopen, ethernet, EtherCAT). The wiring system of the sensors was also designed.
As per the AVG the mechanical chassis of the robot, the traction and steering units were integrated on the AGV unit.A preliminary version of the user interface software was produced.
The required safety certifications and the ethical issues arising from the use of the GRoW robot were explored and addressed in specific reports.
The Expected results until the end of the project are:

- The completion of all R&D activities.
- The finalization and validation of the commercial version of the product, the production of new prototype units and the testing of the prototypes in commercial environment.
- The launch of a new Company’s website for reaching out customers, make them aware of our product and get their feedback.
- The definition of the distribution chain for the first target markets.
- The manufacturing of up to 5 robots, drafting of the product technical dossier and the definition of a the production plan.

The Company - Metomotion- aims to reach an organic growth, with a target of more than 20M€ of revenues by the fifth year of commercialization (2024). In 5 years, the aim is to sell about 2,000 systems to be distributed in at least 10 different countries. The general objective is to develop a product portfolio suitable for serving high-tech greenhouses with reliable and economically profitable solution.
In addition to the sales, Metomotion aims to guarantee to its customers the after-sale and training services, including on-site support, maintenance, SW and HW up-dates, up-grades and diagnostics. To this scope, new hires are expected in the Company to create a network of local technical support offices, at the premises of the distributing companies. Local staff will be properly trained and enabled to carry out the after-sale services on behalf of Metomotion.
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