First Raspberry-Picking Robot Tested in the United Kingdom

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. greenhouse / ˈgrinˌhaʊs / (n) – a building used for growing plants

    Plants inside the greenhouse need more water and proper care.

  2. pluck / plʌk / (v) – to pull something to remove it from its place

    Farm owners pay workers to pluck fruits out of plants.

  3. refine / rɪˈfaɪn / (v) – to make changes to something to improve it

    The artist refined his design for months because he does not want to hear criticisms about it.

  4. commercially / kəˈmɜr ʃəli / (adv) – in a manner that is concerned with earning profit

    The product was commercially successful because it was widely advertised.

  5. shortcoming / ˈʃɔrtˌkʌm ɪŋ / (n) – a weakness

    Having a short battery life is one of the device’s shortcomings.


Read the text below.

A 1.8-meter tall robot that can harvest raspberries has been tested in the United Kingdom.

The robot was developed by Plymouth / ˈplɪm əθ / University’s technology company Fieldwork Robotics in collaboration with Hall Hunter Partnership, a berry grower. It was first tested in a greenhouse at Hall Hunter’s farm in England.

During the initial testing, the robot was programmed to pluck raspberries, which are difficult to harvest because they are soft and delicate. Using cameras, sensors, and artificial intelligence, the robot identified which raspberries were ripe enough for harvesting. It then plucked the fruits from the plants and put them in a basket. It took the robot one minute to pick each raspberry.

Dr. Martin Stoelen, the founding director of Fieldwork Robotics, invented the robot. He hopes to use the results of the initial test to refine the robot and enable it to harvest other fruits and vegetables.

The robot is expected to be commercially available next year. Currently, it has one arm, but it will eventually have four. These would allow the robot to pluck 25,000 raspberries in 20 hours. In comparison, human workers can harvest only 15,000 raspberries in eight hours. However, unlike humans, the robot cannot operate properly in certain light conditions during the day.

Despite its shortcoming, the robot could help growers with labor shortage and increasing costs of hiring farm workers. Dr. Stoelen said that about 40% to 60% of raspberry growers’ expenses go to manual laborers’ wages. Hence, he believes that robots could be a cheaper alternative because he plans to rent them out to farmers at an affordable price.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think the robot is an effective solution to labor shortage and high costs of hiring farm workers? Why or why not?
• If you were given the chance to solve those problems using another technological innovation, what would you use? Explain.

Discussion B

• Aside from agriculture, what other industries do you think can greatly benefit from technological advancements? Explain.
• What kind of technological advancements do you think that industry needs? Why?