Pepper picking robot – another human job gone?

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Apparently this is one of those jobs that Americans won’t do…for the money offered. Enter Sweeper. Is this the future replacement for migrant labor?

Sweeper is a EU-backed pepper-picking robot meant to combat farming labor shortages. Researchers expect to have a commercial version available in three to five years.

To do its job, Sweeper uses a camera that can recognize the color of a pepper. Computer vision then helps the robot decide if the fruit is ripe for picking. If it is, Sweeper uses a small razor to cut the stem before catching the fruit in its “claws” and dropping it into a collection basket below. To pick a single pepper takes about 24 seconds, though the researchers say they purposefully slowed down the robot’s movements for safety reasons. Sweeper is also equipped with LED lights so that it can work regardless of the time of day, for about 20 hours/day. Still, the robot is far from perfect, with currently only 61 percent accuracy in picking ripe fruit.