Due to the rise in global food demand brought on by the exponential growth of the world's population over the past two decades, agricultural productivity has improved significantly.
Traditional farming methods require a lot of time and hard labor. Farmers worldwide have recently adopted innovative agricultural techniques to reduce the time and cost structure of traditional farming processes.
With the advent of cutting-edge machinery, a revolution in the farming industry was sparked, and farming practices have changed. Precision farming has been widely used in most agricultural application fields, transforming conventional farming into smart farming where resources are used in monitored and assessed zones to boost agricultural productivity.
Along with precision agriculture tools, harvesting machinery has also made it possible for farmers to take advantage of the possibility and produce bigger yields.
Harvesting tools are used for cutting, threshing, and cleaning applications in a variety of crop plants such as sugarcane, maize, wheat, rye, sorghum, rice, and corn. They are an essential part of farming methods.
In addition to the agricultural industry, large-scale use of harvesting equipment is also made by dairy farms, forage producers, and animal feed manufacturers.
In recent years, major advancements have been witnessed in harvesting equipment. Flying harvesting robots, fully automated harvesting robots, combine harvesters, forage harvesters, sugarcane harvesters, and vineyard harvesters are just a few of the cutting-edge harvesting technology currently sweeping the market. The demand for harvesting equipment and farmer acceptability are other global market drivers.
Simultaneously, technological innovations in harvesting equipment and government subsidies for harvesting equipment drive the harvesting equipment market.
According to the BIS Research analysis, the harvesting equipment market is expected to grow from $22.42 billion in the year 2021 to $30.11 billion by 2027, at a CAGR of 5.08% from 2022 to 2027.
The finite presence of natural resources, such as arable land and fresh water, along with falling farm yield trends in many crop categories, have encouraged innovators and agricultural companies to introduce innovative and advanced agriculture equipment to boost farm profitability.
New firms and emerging technologies are developing solutions for the agriculture sector. As numerous entrepreneurs are developing a wide range of solutions, the five major startups working in harvest automation are discussed as follows:
1. AvL Motion – Asparagus Harvester: In the U.S. and Europe, asparagus is a popular vegetable. When it comes to harvesting, it is one of the most labour-intensive crops. It takes careful timing to acquire great yield since asparagus must be harvested before it blooms.
AvL Motion, a Dutch startup, makes robots expressly to solve the problem of labor shortages in asparagus picking. It has discovered an automated system for the autonomous, selective picking of white asparagus
The asparagus-detecting, asparagus-cutting, and the soil-removal prototype are being tested in the field. Asparagus season in 2020 will be the first one they start harvesting.
2. Tevel Tech – Soft Fruit Harvester: Soft fruits include berries, apples, oranges, peaches, pears, and avocados, which are tiny fruits with soft skin. Picking little fruits by hand might take a lot of time. The harvesting process frequently consumes a significant amount of the resources used by the orchards and vineyards where these fruits are cultivated.
The farmer must next perform thinning and pruning in addition to harvesting to make sure the crop is prepared for the following step. Tevel Tech, an Israeli business, develops autonomous drones for orchard harvest and maintenance using a unique aerial robotics platform and cutting-edge algorithms.
They create a fleet of drones to be used in orchards for picking, thinning, and trimming jobs. Their aerial method offers the farmer a complete harvesting solution.
Benefits of the Tevel Tech fruit harvester
• Information on the size, weight, color, and amount of the fruit collected in real-time
• Reporting harvest results allows farms to maintain their standing in the supply chain
• Integration with processes for smart farming
3. Four Growers – Tomato Harvester: Nearly 15% of the world's total vegetable production comes from the tomato, which is actually a fruit rather than a vegetable. It is widely consumed all around the world. This makes it tough to digest any tomato crop waste.
Due to a lack of labor, growers must either increase their harvest prices or leave tomatoes to rot on the vines. The American startup, Four Growers creates automated tomato harvesting robots.
To create a tomato harvesting robot, the business is collaborating closely with several greenhouse producers. Their technology is protected by two filed patents, one for the physical design of the robot and the other for the proprietary algorithms that govern its capacity for decision-making. The technology not only collects the tomatoes but also evaluates their quality and preserves them.
Currently, their robot can harvest tomatoes inside a greenhouse, and future work will concentrate on harvesting in open fields. They also intend to start picking cucumbers and peppers.
4. Robotic Saffron – saffron processing machine: The saffron crop requires a lot of labor. It has three tiny, scarlet stigmas in the middle that must be hand-picked, put on a plate, and heated to cure to intensify the flavor.
Saffron is exceptional not only because it is the most expensive spice but also because it has many advantages. To put it into perspective, saffron is more expensive per gram than gold.
Italian startup Robotic Saffron creates robots for saffron harvesting, considering the difficult stigma separation process, high labor expenses, and labor shortages. Using robotic technology, they want to lower the price of this precious and practical spice.
5. GROBOMAC – Cotton Harvester: If a person works 8 to 10 hours a day, they may typically pick 20 cotton plants each day. Furthermore, manually picking cotton might result in allergies or even long-lasting hand injuries. The quality of the cotton fiber is decreased because the cotton growers' are forced to switch to using machines.
Robotic cotton harvesters have been made possible by research and technological advancement. To automate some of the jobs now carried out by people during cotton harvesting, Indian startup Green Robot Machinery creates intelligent devices.
They can modify their equipment to perform other labor-intensive chores, including spraying, trimming, and weeding. They develop their machines using a combination of vision technology, artificial intelligence, control, mechanization, mobility, and diagnostics.
Changing agricultural dynamics and farmers' acceptance of technological innovations are creating an opportunity for the harvesting equipment market.
Currently, large multinational companies, as well as startups, are continuously working on upgrading farm machinery to increase efficiency and improve ease of operations.
Due to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the agriculture field, the adoption of harvesters, drones, and farm robots is drastically increasing in developed countries. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), agricultural robots have significantly reduced agricultural harvesting operation costs by decreasing manual labor and input and improving the quality of grains.