file photo.

Leamington Greenhouses Testing Robot Harvesters

Three Leamington area vegetable greenhouses are testing a robot to harvest produce and remove leaves from plants.

The robot is being developed by University of Guelph professor Doctor Medhat Moussa.

The prototype has visioning technology that allows it to identify ripe produce.

It also has a pick-up arm that will let it gently – yet firmly – harvest the vegetables without damaging them.

Labour costs for an Ontario greenhouse grower are estimated at between 70 and 80 thousand dollars an acre.

Anywhere from 40 to 60 per cent of that is in harvesting and removing dead leaves.

Doctor Moussa’s goal is to develop a robot that can work at least as quickly and efficiently as people do and offer growers a return on their investment in three to four years.

If all goes well with the Leamington tests, Doctor Moussa hopes to have the robots commercially available in three years.