Japanese agtech company launches robotic tomato harvester

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Picking tomatoes can be costly and laborious especially when labour is in short supply but robotic help is now available. Japanese company inaho Inc has set up a subsidiary company inaho Europe BV with a base in the Netherlands, and has developed a new robot for harvesting snack tomatoes.

The company’s goal is to devise robotic solutions to help boost agriculture production, it has previously launched an AI-equipped asparagus harvesting robot back in 2019.

The European arm of the company officially started operations on April 1, 2021 and it has launched the tomato robotic harvester as its first product.

The European Union produces around 17 million tonnes of tomatoes each year which involves a lot of picking hours and cost to get the produce shop-ready.

Autonomous navigation, indoors, outdoors, 24/7

Inaho’s new product is a fully-automated robot used to harvest snack tomatoes. It is programmed to use AI algorithms to identify ripe fruits by their colour and size.

Powered by batteries this latest robot can run for up to 12 hour shifts on a single charge working day and night. Autonomous navigation using SLAM, RTK GPS and sensor technologies allows the robust mobile robot to navigate both indoors and outdoors.

inaho first began the development of its tomato harvesting robot in 2020. Currently, four robots have already been manufactured and released for work. These machines are already being operated in the field and are collecting feedback from several leading growers in Japan for further improvements.

inaho says its mission is to make farming more sustainable and, through its solutions, the company aims to contribute to saving labour and efficiency improvement in agriculture in Europe and other regions.

Sohya Ohyama, co-founder and COO of inaho, recognises the current need for this tomato harvester and said: “Farms and producers across various countries are suffering from labour shortages as a result of the pandemic of Covid-19.

In addition to the global pandemic, the increasing wages for farmworkers are becoming a growing difficulty for businesses in agriculture.

These challenges could eventually lead to food shortages in the coming years; therefore now is the time to introduce automation technologies and to transition away from the existing methods of farming.

We believe that our cutting edge technologies and solutions will contribute to the well-being of all persons in the agricultural industry and lead to the realisation of sustainable agriculture in the future.

To make this happen, we are seeking partners who can expand on these values together including growers, seed companies and facility equipment companies in the EU.”

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Chris McCullough is a freelance multi-media journalist based in Northern Ireland and specialises in all aspects of agriculture. He has spent the past 18 years travelling the globe hunting for the best stories in food, farming and politics. He has reported extensively from overseas, mostly throughout Europe but also from USA, Canada, India, Australia and African countries on various topics. He has won a number of awards for his photos and journalism and is always on the lookout for his next exclusive.

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