CNH has made a strategic minority investment in Advanced Farm Technologies, a California-based start-up specializing in robotic automated harvesting of fruits such as apples and strawberries. This move is in line with CNH's commitment to fostering the development of smart harvesting technologies and is expected to bolster R&D and commercialization partnerships between the two entities.
The transition to robotic picking presents promising prospects for fruit farmers. Studies show that robotic picking can potentially enhance productivity by ensuring that high-value crops are harvested with up to five times more efficiency. A closer look at production costs reveals that in the U.S., handpicking labor constitutes 46% of apple production costs and a whopping 70% for strawberries. This economic strain is further intensified by the declining availability of manual laborers.
Advanced Farm Technologies' harvesting system is designed to optimize fruit selection using computer vision and machine learning. The technology allows for picking of premium quality fruits throughout the day and even at night. Moreover, the system is equipped to handle the fruits delicately to prevent any potential damage or bruising. Notable features include robotic arms with soft grippers, a serial-hybrid drive system, autonomous navigation capabilities, and an automated bin handling mechanism. One of the most prominent benefits is the elimination of manually moving ladders from one tree to another, alleviating the labor-intensive nature of the task.
CNH's decision to invest in Advanced Farm Technologies aligns with its overarching ambition of technological growth and innovation in the agriculture industry. The company's focus remains on bringing state-of-the-art solutions to its product range, especially those that align with automated, autonomous, and sustainable farming methodologies that offer practical solutions to the challenges faced by their clientele.