SoftGrip is a three-year EU-funded project that could revolutionise the harvesting of mushrooms and address the severe labour shortage issues facing the sector. The project aims to develop a soft robotic ‘gripper’ designed especially for harvesting delicate produce. It will be integrated with a vision system to accurately detect and identify the mushrooms to be harvested.
Two data collection workshops have now taken place at the Teagasc Mushroom Research Facility at Ashtown. Scientists specialising in advanced materials from Germany, along with computer software and advanced robotics engineers from institutes in Greece, Italy and UK, came together to start the process of refining the individual components of a robotic harvesting system. A preliminary vision system to visualise mushrooms was put through its paces with a mushroom crop. A technique of ‘imitation-learning’ using tactile sensors attached to a harvester’s hand was used to gather data for algorithms that will direct the computer-controlled mushroom gripper. A number of flexible soft grippers were evaluated to identify the most suitable type for the successful picking and outrooting of mushrooms. The next workshop will take place in December and we are looking forward to all three elements of the system being integrated together for the first time. Exciting times ahead! For more information, contact email@example.com; www.softgrip-project.eu.
SoftGrip is funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 101017054. ✽