Will this fruit-picking robot transform agriculture?

Creating a machine that can perform the delicate work of picking an apple is tricky – and farmworkers say it could be a benefit.

Robots can do a lot. They build cars in factories. They sort goods in Amazon warehouses. Robotic dogs can, allegedly and a little creepily, make us safer by patrolling our streets. But there are some things robots still cannot do – things that sound quite basic in comparison. Like picking an apple from a tree.

“It’s a simple thing” for humans, says robotics researcher Joe Davidson. “You and I, we could close our eyes, reach into the tree. We could feel around, touch it, and say ‘hey, that’s an apple and the stem’s up here’. Pull, twist. We could do all that without even looking.”

Creating a robotic implement that can simply pick an apple and drop it into a bin without damaging it is a multimillion-dollar effort that has been decades in the making. Teams around the world have tried various approaches. Some have developed vacuum systems to suck fruit off trees. Davidson and his colleagues turned to the human hand for inspiration. They began their efforts by observing professional fruit pickers, and are now working to replicate their skilled movements with robotic fingers.

Their work could help to transform agriculture, turning fruit-picking – a backbreaking, time-consuming human task – into one that’s speedy and easier on farm workers.

These efforts have gained impetus recently as researchers point to the worsening conditions for farm workers amid the climate crisis, including extreme heat and wildfire smoke, and also a shortage of workers in the wake of the pandemic. The technology could lead to better working conditions and worker safety. But that outcome depends on how robots are deployed in fields, farm workers’ organizations say.

The heavyweight Cattle breed in the World

Chianina

The Chianina is an Italian breed of cattle, formerly principally a draught breed, now raised mainly for beef. It is the largest and one of the oldest cattle breeds in the world. The famous bistecca alla fiorentina (‘beefsteak Florentine style’) is produced from its meat.

One of the oldest breeds of cattle, the Chianina originates in the area of the Valdichiana, from which it takes its name, and the middle Tiber valley. Chianina cattle have been raised in the Italian regions of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio for at least 2200 years.

Chianina_Bulle

The Chianina is both the tallest and the heaviest breed of cattle. Mature bulls stand up to 1.8 m (5 ft 11 in), and castrated oxen may reach 2 m (6 ft 7 in). It is not unusual for bulls to exceed 1,600 kg (3,500 lb) in weight. Males standing over 1.51 m (4 ft 11 in) at 12 months are considered top-grade. A Chianina bull named Donetto holds the world record for the heaviest bull, reported by one source as 1,740 kg (3,840 lb) when exhibited at the Arezzo show in 1955, but as 1,780 kg (3,920 lb) and 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) tall at the age of 8 by others including the Tenuta La Fratta, near Sinalunga in the province of Siena, where he was bred. Cows usually weigh 800–900 kg (1,800–2,000 lb), but commonly exceed 1,000 kg (2,200 lb); those standing over 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in) are judged top-grade. Calves routinely weigh over 50 kg (110 lb) at birth. The coat of the Chianina is white; very slight grey shading round the eyes and on the foreparts is tolerated. The skin, muzzle, switch, hooves and the tips of the horns are black.

At the end of 2010 there were 47,236 head registered in Italy, of which more than 90% were in Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio; it is, after the Marchigiana, the second indigenous beef breed of Italy.

Chianina1

Don’t want one these beasts to get agitated when you are nearby.

Chianina2
Chianina3

Their history as draft animals means that Chianinas were bred for docile temperaments, as they had to work closely with people. That good disposition is important in a cow as large as the Chianina.

Chianina4

Royal Winter Fair in Brandon has Little Pony Chuck Wagon Races 

The Royal Winter Fair in the western Manitoba city of Brandon is an agricultural exhibition held annually at the end of March.  On average approximately 110,000 visitors pass through the turnstiles to check out the amazing critters yearly.  The major events are cattle and horse competitions, equestrian, team horse wagons, hog chases, heifer round-ups, petting zoo, Royal fiddle competition, Barrel Racing, K-9 Equine relay and tiny pony chuck wagon races.

The fair is held at the Keystone Arena which has a capacity of 5,000 for the fair. The Royal Winter Fair is a great outing for all the family, including Grandma and Grandpa.

Equestrian and horse carriage competition.

fair

fair1

The K-9 Equine relay course.

fair2

fair14 k9-equine relay

Spot and Trigger are about to take off!

Equestrian competition.

fair10

Cattle competition.

fair6

Young cattle and their young handlers.

Masterfeed Supreme Bull (CNW Group/Royal Agricultural Winter Fair)

Masterfeed Supreme Bull (CNW Group/Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.                                                             

The big horse team competition, glorious animals.

fair5

fair8

fair13

fair9

Barrel Racing.

fair11

Hog scramble.

fair12

Little Pony Chuck Wagon Races

fair3

fair4

fairxcx

Little horses really put out and go like the banshee.

fairxcxa

These are really small horses!

fair15

The Ankole

Ankole in Umutara province in Rwanda

The Ankole is a breed or group of breeds of African cattle, belonging to the broad Sanga cattle grouping of African breeds.  It was probably introduced to Uganda between five and seven hundred years ago by nomadic pastoralists from more northerly parts of the continent. It is distributed in much of eastern and central Africa, particularly in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and parts of Tanzania.  There are at least five distinct regional strains, some of which may be reported as breeds in their own right.

Natural horns of Ankole Bull

Watusi in Uganda

World Cattle Population by Country

Cattle relaxing on the streets of India

 

The world cattle inventory in 2020 was reported at 987.5 million head.  

India has the largest cattle inventory in the world in 2020 followed by Brazil & the United States.   Roughly 65% of the world’s cattle are in India, Brazil & the United States.  (The cattle inventory in India includes water buffalo).

Cattle ranch in Brazil. Ranching greatly contributes to deforestation in the Amazon region of the country.

 

 

Cattle ranch in the United States

 

Canadian ranch

Cattle on a beautiful ranch in Alberta. The beef industry in Canada and around the world has faced many challenges. Mad cow disease, over supply, drought, cost of hay, and many other challenges have resulted in a fairly up and down industry. However, these cattle, resting on a hill in Kananaskis Country in Alberta’s pristine foothills, don’t seem to have a worry in the world. The dramatic fall colours and snow on the Rocky Mountains enhance the scenic image…an idyllic Alberta landscape!