Feb. 23, 2015

February 2015 marks the start of SWEEPER, an innovation-driven international research program for the development of the first market-ready sweet pepper harvesting robot. The research is being supported by the Horizon 2020 program of the European Union. 

Wageningen University & Research Centre will coordinate the international network of partners from Sweden, Israel, Belgium and the Netherlands. The partnership includes universities, research institutes, a system integrator, and a large sweet pepper grower. 

During the past decade, fundamental research has led to insights and technology developments that will allow the SWEEPER partners to further develop the sweet pepper harvesting robot that was initiated in the previous European project CROPS. The robot will be the first harvesting robot in the world to operate in a commercial greenhouse. 

Europe is a leader in agricultural robots and also suffers from a paucity of skilled workers. 

The first generation market-ready sweet pepper harvesting robot will launch a new high tech commercial area. For now, SWEEPER’s target market is the sweet pepper, of which 1.3 million metric tons are harvested in Europe yearly. However, the partners believe the knowledge and technology from the SWEEPER program can easily be migrated to other greenhouse crops. 

The SWEEPER innovation program is a partnership between Umea University in Sweden, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, Proefstation voor de Groenteteelt in Belgium, and from the Netherlands, Wageningen University& Research Centre, Irmato Industrial Solutions Veghel B.V. and sweet pepper grower De Tuindershoek BV. 

At BGU, Professors Yael Edan of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management and Ohad Ben Shahar of Computer Science will lead this project together with Dr. Yisrael Parmet and their PhD students Polina Kurtser, Boaz Arad, Ehud Barnea, Efrat Taig, and Rotem Mairon.  

Edan will be leading task planning and sensor fusion. Ben-Shahar, head of the Interdisciplinary Computational Vision Lab in the Department of Computer Science, is leading the Sensing for fruit detection, localization and ripeness. Parmet, also of Industrial Management and Engineering, will contribute to statistical analyses. 

Edan heads the Agricultural, Biological and Cognitive Robotics Initiative at BGU funded by the Helmsley Trust.