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Automated strawberry picker closer to reality

Harvest CROO (Computerized Robotic Optimized Obtainer) Robotics is developing and testing the latest technology for agricultural robotics - an automated strawberry picker to help alleviate the labor shortage facing the industry. Its first U.S. Patent approval marks a milestone accomplishment.

The Pitzer Wheel, named after co-founder and inventor Bob Pitzer, is an autonomous and continuous picking wheel on the apparatus.

“Our biggest differentiator has always been that growers will not have to change the way they currently grow strawberries,” said Gary Wishnatzki, co-founder of Harvest CROO and owner of Wish Farms based in Plant City, FL. “Now, with the patent of the Pitzer Wheel, what I believe to be the heart of the invention, we have another strong distinguishing factor.”

The picking wheel uses conservation of motion as opposed to a “pick and move” motion. It picks the initial berry, then rotates to expose the next claw to pick another berry at a rapid rate. Once a strawberry is picked by one of the six food-grade silicon claws, it is rotated to the top of the wheel. From there, the berry is carefully placed into a cup that will transfer it to a central location on the machine, where it will be inspected for a second time, before placement in consumer packs. This is all done without human intervention.

Since the start of the project, Harvest CROO has filed a total of six patents. Current patent-pending applications include GPS navigation techniques, an altitude control system, and leaf manipulation concepts for harvest. The company’s vision technology, which is used to identify the perfect ripe berry, is being held as a trade secret.

Harvest CROO is currently fundraising in preparation for the next round of prototypes.

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