On September 3rd 2015, the SWEEPER consortium held its 2nd general meeting at the Proefstation voor de Groenteteelt in Sint-Katelijne-Waver in Belgium (PSKW). Partners presented their progress of the first half year. The user requirements, functional and hardware design specifications for picking yellow and red peppers are ready. The PSKW evaluated several yellow and red sweet pepper varieties on their suitability for robotic harvesting and selected the varieties with highest success rates. Fruits are best picked by approaching them from below. Based on that, Irmato selected a manipulator and demonstrated it during the meeting. Ben Gurion University presented evaluations of five camera systems for fruit detection, localization and maturity analysis. Wageningen University and Research Center tested several illumination prototypes and showed that a module with very high light intensity is needed to minimize the negative effect of quickly changing natural light conditions on the image quality. Umea University defined the basic software framework and selected the Robot Operating System (ROS), a set of software libraries and tools, to build the SWEEPER robot application. Prior to the meeting the research team was instructed how to use ROS.

 

Selected manipulator demonstrated to the consortium during the PSKW meeting

 

The week after the meeting the manipulator was used to acquire real-world images at the sweet pepper grower involved in the consortium (de Tuindershoek in IJsselmuiden, NL). For this, Ben Gurion University and Wageningen University prepared several camera and illumination system set-ups. Later this year the prototypes with best performance will be chosen to be used to build the basic system. The basic system is planned to harvest the first fruits in spring 2016. The evaluation results will be used to develop the final advanced sweet pepper robot. The upcoming period the team will focus on providing robust sensing functionality to facilitate selective targeting, efficient manipulation and safe harvesting (for the fruit, plant, greenhouse, and robot). The manipulator, having 6 degrees of freedom to move, will be used in the basic robot setup. The available space in between the crop rows is limited and simulations with this manipulator configuration will be performed to check whether the robot can reach all fruits without damaging the crop.

 

Selected manipulator used to acquire real-world images at De Tuindershoek



At the meeting, coordinator Jan Bontsema announced his departure as off October 1st, 2015, and introduced his successor Jos Balendonck. The whole SWEEPER team thanked Jan for his inspirational leadership during the first phase of the project.

 

The SWEEPER team at the PSKW sweet-pepper greenhouse compartment