Hundreds of tons of asparagus are harvested in Europe in a short period of time every year. Although there are some harvesting devices on the market to make the task easier for agricultural workers, labor costs still represent the highest percentage of the price for asparagus.
Until now, the level of automation in asparagus harvesting has been negligible due to the absence of cost-effective technology. But harvesting the products manually can lead to losses of up to 15 per cent, mainly due to damage caused to asparagus stalks that are inadvertently cut by workers.
To overcome those problems, European engineers are developing a continuous, fully automatic vision-based robotic system to harvest both white and violet asparagus. The system is claimed to be the first that will be able to do so.
After the image recognition system has recognized the specific location of the asparagus, the system will cut and remove the asparagus stalk.
The project to develop the system will last two years, ending in August 2014. It is hoped that, once complete, the system will enable European producers to compete with farmers in Peru and China where labor costs are lower.