Innovation in Florida
For the last five years, Plant City strawberry grower Gary Wishnatzki has worked closely with Bob Pitzer, a robotics designer, to create a robot that harvests strawberries.
Their company, Harvest CROO, already has a prototype that’s picking berries in Florida fields, and they project that the robot will be in widespread use by 2020. The automated picker, with 16 arms designed to pluck ripe strawberries at least 20 hours a day, is 30 feet wide, 12 feet long and 14 feet tall. It features two cameras, one that determines the berry’s size and ripeness and another that guides a silicon claw to gently pick the berry and place it in a package. Pitzer estimates that the robot will be able to harvest eight acres of fruit a day, about the same as 30 humans could pick in a day.
Wishnatzki, the owner of Plant City’s Wish Farms, has raised $5 million from investors to create the robotic picker.