The world's first mango auto-harvester is a step closer to being commonplace in Queensland farms' thanks to the work of a CQUniversity research team and support of a local grower.
The prototype was out in the field recently undergoing further testing and refinement on Groves Farm' a tropical fruit farm near Yeppoon in Central Queensland' where the research team is working with the last of the season's crop.
The auto-harvester has been turning heads within the mango industry for some time' but recently underwent substantial refinement and is ticking more boxes for industry and becoming more viable for commercialisation.
Lead researcher Professor Kerry Walsh said the Mk 3 technology has new mechanics' a new camera system and new grippers which are less damaging for fruit.
"Overall' we have experienced an improved harvesting success rate' particularly for bigger fruit'" Professor Walsh explained.
He said it was really exciting to see the technology achieving great results in the field.
"The auto-harvester has the potential to solve some of the major labour force issues that currently limit the industry.
"The harvester is part of an integrated system which will ensure farmers know exactly how many fruit are on their trees' when they will be in perfect condition for the consumer' and when to employ the right number of people for picking and packing.
"The end goal is to save costs and improve productivity on farm' while driving consumer demand by ensuring a top-quality eating experience every time."
Professor Walsh said the auto-harvester is a step toward mechanising the "back-breaking" work of harvesting mangoes.
"As it stands' every single mango is picked one by one by hand' in the middle of summer' with a really acidic sap which some people can be allergic to.
"Up until now there has been some movement toward mechanising the picking process' but this technology produced by CQUniversity takes it further' incorporating a number of different technologies to help with the harvesting process.
"The grippers have really improved in the last few years. The soft grippers are remarkably gentle on the fruit and forgiving – they will wrap around a branch and twist out of the way.
"Growers have been impressed with that function and now it's about speed – we need to just do it quicker."