Harvesting strawberries is not easy. Much time is spent walking back and forth from the plants to the collection station to deliver trays.
Fragile Crop Harvest-Aiding Mobile Robots, or FRAIL-Bots, is a project that was funded by USDA-NIFA, under the National Robotics Initiative. The robots "transport the strawberries from the worker to the collection station, and also provide empty trays," said inventor Dr. Vougioukas.
These FRAIL-bots are one more step towards understanding and enhancing human-robot interactions. They predict when a picker's tray will be full and ready to be transported, based on the picker's past and current picking speed, and travel to them "pro-actively," to reduce waiting times. Pickers are very intolerant of delays, robots are more patient. The robot scheduling system performs stochastic optimization in real-time to eliminate picker waiting time and increase harvest efficiency by 10 to 20%.