Who Can Build the Best Apple-Picking Robot?

Nineteen university teams from the U.S., Canada, and China are set to compete in an agricultural robotics competition being held July 31 during the Agricultural and Biological Engineers’ (ASABE) Annual International Meeting in Detroit. Sponsored by the ASABE, the 2018 Robotics Student Design Competition allows undergraduate and graduate students to develop skills in robotic systems, electronics, and sensing technologies by simulating a robotics solution to a common agricultural process. This year’s challenge involves identification, sorting, and harvesting of apples.


“The growth in world population is increasing the need for food, but in some areas, the availability of agricultural labor is decreasing,” said ASABE member Alireza Pourreza, UC Davis Cooperative Extension Agricultural Mechanization Specialist, who is coordinating the event. “Robotic technologies offer a less labor-dependent solution to overcome this challenge. The efficiencies they will bring are a modern-day iteration of those Henry Ford brought to American agriculture, with his mass-produced, affordable tractor.”

In the ASABE design contest, students build a robot — or group of cooperative robots — that accomplish a simulated pre- or postharvest agricultural operation. The challenge will be to simulate the harvest and storage of apples, a crop commercially grown in several states. The students will design and operate robots that will autonomously harvest “apples” on a field that measures 8-feet-by-8-feet. The robots will harvest eight mature apples (red ping-pong balls), remove and dispose of eight diseased or rotten apples (blue ping-pong balls) and leave eight immature apples (green ping-pong balls) on the tree. The competition consists of three rounds throughout the day, where each team will participate once in each round.

Beginner Teams
California Polytechnic State University – Green and Gold Mustangs
China Agricultural College – China Ag, Beginners
McGill University – We Are Groots
Purdue – ABE Robotics
Purdue – Harvestiers
Texas A&M
University of California Merced – Bobcats
University of Nebraska Lincoln – HuskerBots 2
University of Nebraska Lincoln – HuskerBots3
University of Wisconsin River Falls – Falcon Robotics
Zhejiang University – ZJU team 1
Zhejiang University – ZJU team 2
Clemson University – CARA

Advanced Teams
China Agricultural – College Dream
McGill University – Agrobots
University of Georgia – UGA Engineers
University of California – Davis Ag-Botics
University of Florida – RoboGators
University of Nebraska Lincoln – HuskerBots 1

For more information about the 2018 ASABE agricultural robotics competition, visit https://www.asabe.org/Awards.