Could a robotic arm pack cucumbers? The prototype already exists and that’s just the start of more robotics to come. With that existing baseline in mind, Lawrence MacAulay, federal ag minister has announced up to $5 million for enhanced robotics and automation for Canada's greenhouse industry.
In a November 26 news release, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says the R&D will help address greenhouse labour costs and availability through "automation, artificial intelligence and precision agriculture technologies.”
This is a big boost for Canada’s greenhouse vegetables – an industry with a farmgate value of $1.4 billion in 2017. More than $900 million of sales came from Ontario.
Over the next five years, researchers at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre will focus research on three key areas, including:
• developing and testing robotic harvesters for greenhouse cucumbers;
• developing smart, wireless irrigation technologies for potted flowers and vegetables; and
• developing state-of-the-art sensors that will help detect and monitor moisture levels in the soil and air.
"This funding is critical to the industry and Vineland is pleased to manage a national network focused on developing automation, artificial intelligence and precision technology to improve the competitive position of Canadian growers,” said Dr. Tania Humphrey, chief scientific officer, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.
Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Nov. 26, 2018 news release.