The time for automated harvest of strawberries is getting closer, said Gary Wishnatzki, co-founder of Harvest CROO Robotics and president, CEO and owner of Wish Farms, Plant City, Fla.
Development milestones for automated harvesting are expected to be reached this season, Wishnatzki said. Those milestones will include precision harvesting, durability and proving that machines can operate all day in the field and keep running.
“Those milestones are going to be key to us raising a significant amount of money next year,” he said.
Harvest CROO, supported by an estimated 70% of the U.S. strawberry industry, is going out to the investment community and has hired an investment bank to take the company to market and get needed funding for commercialization.
In February, Wishnatzki said the North American Strawberry Growers Association annual meeting will take place from Feb. 3-6, and the event will include an address by Wishnatzki about Harvest CROO on Feb. 4 and a Feb 6 field day demonstration, he said.
Vance Whitaker, strawberry breeder at the University of Florida’s University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, said Harvest CROO would like to commercialize within the next few years.
“From my standpoint, the varieties that are easiest for humans to harvest are easiest for the robot as well. Long stems, a nice open plant canopy that allows visualization of the fruit and fewer unmarketable fruit are good traits no matter the method of harvest,” Jackson said. P