Big Grower November 2021 - 4

Josh Lessing, chief technology officer at AppHarvest, says one of the biggest reasons to incorporate
robots into controlled environment production operations is resilience.
AppHarvest is expected to harvest about 40 million
pounds of tomatoes annually from its new 60-acre
greenhouse operation in Morehead, Kentucky.
allows us to collect a lot more data and allows
us to close the loop and understand how to do
better the next time so that we can keep driving
up quality and yield. "
Robots can free up workers to focus on other aspects of a tomato crop, including pruning and lowering
the plant canopy to reduce damage to the vines.
taken place to grow that crop is converted into
a lost opportunity. Being able to incorporate a
harvesting robot as a supplement to the people
working in the greenhouse guarantees the
harvest is completed in a timely manner. "
Utilizing robots can free up workers to focus
on other aspects of crop care. " With crop care,
there is so much more that can be done to
ensure the plants grow at an optimal level, "
Lessing says. " If people aren't harvesting they
can be pruning the plants. They're making sure
the right number of flowers is on a truss, which
has a monumental impact on what is the final
outcome of the harvest. The harvesting robot
also frees up time for workers to lower the plant
canopy. The gentler the canopy is lowered, the
less heads that are broken on the vines as well
as fewer fruits ending up on the floor due to
rough handling. The more finessed plant care
with the people that we have means better crop
outcomes and more quality product. "
One of the biggest advantages of
incorporating robots into its production
facilities is the data the robots will collect as
they harvest. The information collected by the
robots will enable AppHarvest employees to
evaluate crop health, precisely predict yield
and optimize overall operations of the facility.
" When a fruit is harvested we have an
opportunity to measure the outcome of an
experiment, " Lessing says. " Every variable
that is changed in lighting, temperature and
fertigation is observed the moment we bring in
the harvest. Having robots in the greenhouse
AppHarvest is developing a robot strategy
with the data being collected by the harvesting
" We focus heavily on advancing our computer
vision capabilities, " Lessing says. " We've built
our own custom fully convolutional neural
networks and run complex analyses at the edge
of the robot. We're doing a lot of computer
vision models, including this is a tomato, this
one is ripe or this is a leaf. "
After acquiring this information and the
contents of the environment, they can then
make judgment calls on how to best harvest
a sequence of fruits. Those types of strategy
decisions, Lessing says, are the core of modern
dexterous robotic techniques.
" Worldwide there's over $100 billion worth of
hand harvesting of fruits, both CEA and field
production. Writing the fundamental software
that allows a robot to strategize the way
humans move their hands in an environment
to do sequential complex dexterous actions is a
tremendous accomplishment. "
The Virgo harvesting robot has also been
used on strawberries and cucumbers. It is the
same robot with a slightly different picking
hand. A large percentage of what happens
with harvesting a berry crop is very similar
to the issues that have to be managed with a
tomato crop.

Big Grower November 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Big Grower November 2021

Big Grower November 2021 - 1
Big Grower November 2021 - 2
Big Grower November 2021 - 3
Big Grower November 2021 - 4
Big Grower November 2021 - 5
Big Grower November 2021 - 6
Big Grower November 2021 - 7
Big Grower November 2021 - 8
Big Grower November 2021 - 9
Big Grower November 2021 - 10
Big Grower November 2021 - 11
Big Grower November 2021 - 12