Climate Science Meets a Stubborn Obstacle: Students –

ABC Rural

By Laurissa Smith

Updated Wednesday at 08:57

First posted Tuesday at 16:54

YOUTUBE: The apple-picking robot uses a vacuum arm to strip fruit from the tree (Supplied: Good Fruit Grower)

Many fruit growers across Australia were left scrambling to find pickers this season and were forced to leave fruit on the trees to rot.

Would harvest be less stressful if they had a robot to do the work instead?

A team of engineers from California are close to commercialising a machine that strips a canopy of apples using a vacuum arm.

For the past five years they have been working on the prototype in orchards in Washington State and, more recently, at Warragul in south-east Victoria.

Abundant Robotics chief executive Dan Steere said the invention may just be the solution to a global labour problem.

“The industry struggles to attract a large enough labour force, even when they’re paying pretty high wages,” he said.

“This has been a growing problem for several decades in the US as well as Australia and other places.

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