Robots and fruit picking topic of Nov. 1 Oregon State Science Pub talk

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University research that seeks to overcome the challenge of teaching a robot to pick fruit will be the topic of Oregon State University’s Science Pub event at 6 p.m. Nov. 1.

The free event, which can be attended in person at the Old World Deli in Corvallis or viewed online, will feature a presentation by Joe Davidson, an assistant professor of robotics in the OSU College of Engineering.

While the production of row crops has long been heavily mechanized, the fresh market tree fruit industry still relies on large, seasonal workforces, Davidson notes.

“This presents challenges,” he said. “The world’s population is expected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050 and to feed this growing population we will need to grow more food. On top of that, there is increasing uncertainty about the future availability of agricultural workers.”

Although researchers and companies have been working on fruit harvesting robots since the 1980s, today there are still no robotic tree fruit harvesters commercially available, Davidson said.

“Think about that: Every apple you see at the grocery store was picked by a human hand,” he said.

In his Science Pub talk, Davidson will describe why it has been so difficult for robots to work in orchards, especially harvesting fruit. He also will summarize ongoing research at Oregon State on teaching robots to pick apples.

Registration is required to attend Science Pub in person or to view it online.

Sponsors of Science Pub include the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Old World Deli and Oregon State University.

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