A close-up of the robotic cucumber end effector grasping a cucumber that is hanging from a vertical cucumber support.

Robotic Cucumber Harvesting

Pittsburgh-based startup Four Growers is making significant strides in agriculture by leveraging cutting-edge robotic technology to assist greenhouse growers in providing healthy and affordable local produce. With a focus on lowering production costs, Four Growers has already developed a groundbreaking robotic tomato picker and was interested in expanding their harvesting capabilities to cucumbers. They asked Daedalus to conceptualize how a robotic arm might harvest cucumbers.

While easy for humans, harvesting cucumbers poses a unique challenge for robots. The delicate process involves the robot firmly, but gently, holding the cucumber or its stalk, known as the peduncle, and carefully cutting it away from the vine. The robot's grip needs to be secure enough to avoid dropping the fruit to the ground (yes, a cucumber is technically a fruit), but also gentle enough to avoid any cuts, dents, bruises, or any other harm to the fruit.

In the initial phase of the project, mechanical engineers at Daedalus delved into researching various methods of grasping objects using robotic end effectors—the robotic hands. Our MEs then applied themselves to brainstorming solutions, which turned out to be a bit more complex than initially anticipated, as Four Growers not only asked for concepts that could hold the body of the cucumber or the peduncle during cutting but also wanted ideas for switching between the two holding methods.

At the end of the ideation phase, Four Growers selected a concept proposed by Daedalus that met all of their requirements. With this concept in hand, we developed, built, manually tested, and delivered a 3D design based on the chosen concept.

To complement Daedalus' mechanical engineering efforts, Four Growers' internal software team developed the necessary software to control the prototype. They have successfully used the system to produce a video showcasing the robotic cucumber harvesting system, with the aim of attracting potential investors. Importantly, the design is easily adaptable for harvesting peppers, which expands the system's versatility.

For more information, visit Four Growers.

Training and Facilitation
Interface Design
Industrial Design
Human Factors
Ethnographic Research
Mechanical Engineering
Electrical Engineering
Software Engineering
Full Service Development