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A Robot Prototype for Asparagus Harvesting, First Trial Results
Fedrizzi, M.; Pagano, M.; Pochi, D.; Fanigliulo, R.; Colorio, G.; Tomasone, R.; Cecchini, M.; Sperandio, G.
ENG, eng
“From effective to intelligent agriculture and forestry” XXXV CIOSTA & CIGR V International Conference, July 3rd – July 5th, 2013, Billund- Denmark
Kind of publication:
Abstract in Italian:
Abstract in English:
Green asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is generally harvested by hand and only growers with larger productions employ self-propelled machinery, equipped with endothermic engines or electric motors, to facilitate the harvesting operations. The vehicle driver uses foot controls to drive over the row and collects the emerging asparagus using his free hands. Machine aided harvesting can cut labour needs by more than 50% compared to hand harvest. The savings in manpower achieved may contribute significantly in the reduction of total production costs, allowing growers to achieve higher income. Unfortunately, competition of third countries with lower labour costs and decreasing market price are making machine aided harvesting less convenient in Italy. Robotic harvesting may be a very promising solution in the future. The introduction of an autonomous machine for automated harvesting could represent a valid alternative for picking green asparagus. In this paper the robot prototype is presented. It was designed and built thanks to funding from the National Body for Agricultural Mechanization (ENAMA) by Bagioni Alfiero, an agricultural machinery manufacturer in Forlì (Italy), also with the collaboration of researchers working at the CRA-ING. The machine can perform the automatic harvest of green asparagus. The integrated robotic system consists of a self-propelled electric traction platform with automatic drive mechanism. The A.G.V. system (Automatic Guide Vehicle) moves the robot along the row and turns the machine at field headland. The driving system uses an electric cable buried along the cultivation row, emitting electromagnetic waves that are detected by the robot’s sensors, allowing the machine to move forth automatically. The green asparagus spears, about 22 cm long, are detected by infrared emitting pointers and by tactile sensors. The cutting apparatus mounted on the machine consists of a grasping unit to hold and cut the spear, actuated by tactile sensors. In the first field tests, the robot was capable of picking the spears with an average speed of 7 seconds, including the time employed for spear detection and the time to activate the cutting knife. In average, four more seconds were taken to move the collected spears to the trays carried by the prototype. The robot can advance at a constant speed of 1000 mh-1 but work speed is extremely variable, depending on the distances between the spears along the row. Picking time increases considerably when in front of the vehicle many spears are detected simultaneously, because the machine must stop in order to cut all the mature stems.

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