When Harvest CROO (Computerized Robotic Optimized Obtainer) Robotics recently announced it was developing tools — including an automated strawberry picker — to directly address pressing agricultural labor issues, interest was piqued among industry stakeholders.
Momentum is picking up for the ag-tech company as Naturipe, one of the largest strawberry producers in North America, has joined the growing list of industry investors supporting the Plant City, FL-based startup.
With the support of Naturipe, now more than 20% of the U.S. strawberry industry has invested in Harvest CROO Robotics.
According to the company, testing on its latest prototype will take place during the Florida strawberry season, which begins in November. Improvements include harvest speed and the development of an autonomous mobile platform that will carry the robotic pickers through the field.
After berries are picked, they will be transferred overhead to the platform level, where they will be inspected and packed into consumer units by delta robots. The development of the packing robots is on the docket for next year.
“The technology is prepared to make a major leap this coming season,” said Bob Pitzer, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Harvest CROO. “We were at commercial speed, last March, at a rate of eight seconds to pick a plant. Now by using embedded processors and a streamlined picking head design, we expect to easily cut that time in half.”
“Naturipe Berry Growers sees joining this collaborative effort as an important step in ensuring the sustainability of the U.S. strawberry industry and putting our growers in a position to be early adopters of the technology,” said Rich Amirsehhi, President and CEO of Naturipe.
Harvest CROO is currently fundraising in preparation for the next round of prototypes. To learn more about Harvest CROO, including investment opportunities, contact [email protected].