A company that wants to automate strawberry picking has received its first patent.
Tampa, Fla.-based Harvest CROO Robotics received a patent for its robotic harvesting picking wheel, according to a news release.
Harvest CROO was co-founded by Gary Wishnatzki, owner of Plant City, Fla.-based Wish Farms, and Bob Pitzer, inventor of the picking wheel, which is called the Pitzer Wheel.
“Our biggest differentiator has always been that growers will not have to change the way they currently grow strawberries,” Wishnatzki said in the release. “Now, with the patent of the Pitzer Wheel, what I believe to be the heart of the invention, we have another strong distinguishing factor.”
Harvest CROO’s picking wheel uses conservation of motion as opposed to a “pick and move” motion, Wishnatzki said.
The machine picks a strawberry, then rotates to expose the next claw to pick another berry. Once a berry is picked by one of the machine’s six food-grade silicon claws, it’s rotated to the top of the wheel, placed into a cup which is transferred for an inspection, then placed into a consumer pack.
Harvest CROO already has built a prototype of the wheel, which the company hopes will be able to harvest 25 acres of strawberries in three days.
The company’s investors include strawberry growers in Florida and California.
In addition to labor savings, Harvest CROO said the automatic picker provides non-fluctuating harvesting rates, eliminates rejections due to weight, increases yields by 10% or more by eliminating overpacks and reduces plastic use by a third.
Harvest CROO has filed a total of six patents for its automated picker. Current patent-pending applications include GPS navigation techniques, an altitude control system and leaf manipulation concepts for harvest.