90% success rate of the robotic tomato harvester

We’ve been following the development of the robot closely over the past couple of years, and now we have new news. Last year, MetoMotion partnered with De Ruiter to test the GRoW system at the De Ruiter Experience Centre. An official control measurement was conducted in October and showed that GRoW harvested a full range of tomatoes with a 90% success rate and without human intervention.

MetoMotion

Israeli agtech company MetoMotion was founded in 2017 to help growers address key horticultural challenges, including labour shortages in horticulture and increased demand. Enter MetoMotion’s GRoW or Greenhouse Robot Worker.

GRoW is a multifunctional robotic system designed to reduce labour costs in the greenhouse. According to the company, the first application of GRoW is automated harvesting of greenhouse tomatoes, but eventually the system will perform a number of greenhouse tasks. These additional tasks include harvesting other crops, pruning, monitoring and leaf removal.

“GRoW’s first task will be harvesting tomatoes and packing them,” says MetoMotion. “This is one of the most labour-intensive tasks. Applying GRoW can reduce harvesting costs by 50% and man-hours by 80%.” According to MetoMotion’s website, the projected return on investment is less than three years.

MetoMotion explains that GRoW also allows the grower to continuously collect crop data to better predict total yield, yield distribution and crop stress.

Proven performance at the De Ruiter Experience Centre

In 2020, MetoMotion partnered with De Ruiter to pilot the GRoW system at the De Ruiter Experience Centre. The partnership with De Ruiter allowed the company to test the GRoW system in a real greenhouse environment and take advantage of De Ruiter’s capabilities, experience and in-house expertise. An official control measurement was conducted in October, which showed that GRoW harvested a full range of tomatoes with 90% success and without human intervention.

Thanks to these positive results, MetoMotion will install its first pilot robots in North America and Europe. By the end of 2021, the company will offer GRoW to a limited number of commercial growers, allowing growers to see the robot in action and provide feedback to MetoMotion. The manufacturers’ feedback will then be used to further optimise the system before commercial deployment, after which GRoW will be officially launched.

According to MetoMotion, “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for these technologies. Travel restrictions, isolation and remote working have become the new standard and exacerbated the labour crisis that manufacturers were already experiencing”.

While the pandemic highlighted the demand for GRoW, it also made some operations more difficult, although MetoMotion was able to adapt to continue its research and development efforts. A major challenge during the pandemic is the fact that the pilot project was deployed in the Netherlands, while MetoMotion’s head office is in Israel. With the support of De Ruyter and others, MetoMotion successfully conducted the pilot project remotely, controlling the robots from its headquarters in Israel.

“This is a good example of what the future will look like. Greenhouse robots perform routine tasks, while supervision and support is mostly done remotely. This is better for our planet, better for greenhouse disease prevention, better for the overall social impact of the foreign workforce and of course more profitable for producers,” states the company.