More than 130 million pounds of peaches are produced in Georgia per year, and the Southern staple has a total farm gate value in excess of $71 million, according to recent estimates.
But cultivating peaches is a complex and manually-intensive process that has put a strain on many farms stretched for time and workers. To solve this problem, the Georgia Tech Research Institute has developed an intelligent robot that is designed to handle the human-based tasks of thinning and pruning peach trees, which could result in significant cost savings for peach farms in Georgia.
“Most folks are familiar with the harvesting of fruit and picking it up at the market,” said Ai-Ping Hu, a GTRI senior research engineer who is leading the robot design project. “But there’s actually a lot more that gets done before that point in the cultivation cycle.”
The robot specifically addresses two key components of the peach cultivation cycle: tree pruning and tree thinning.
Tree pruning refers to the selective removal of branches prior to the spring growing season, which typically occurs from mid-May to early August, and serves many purposes – including exposing more interior surface areas of the fruit trees to sunlight and removing undesired older growth to enable new growth to better thrive.
©2021 Cox Media Group