Robots as helpers in the lettuce harvest

Robot solution for automating the lettuce harvest

Lettuce is a valuable crop in Europe and the USA. But labor shortages make it difficult to harvest this valuable field vegetable, as sourcing sufficient seasonal labor to meet harvesting commitments is one of the sector’s biggest challenges. Moreover, with wage inflation rising faster than producer prices, margins are very tight. In England, agricultural technology and machinery experts are working with IDS Imaging Development Systems GmbH (Obersulm, Germany) to develop a robotic solution to automate lettuce harvesting.

Robot solution for automating the lettuce harvest

The team is working on a project funded by Innovate UK and includes experts from the Grimme agricultural machinery factory, the Agri-EPI Centre (Edinburgh UK), Harper Adams University (Newport UK), the Centre for Machine Vision at the University of the West of England (Bristol) and two of the UK’s largest salad producers, G’s Fresh and PDM Produce.

Within the project, existing leek harvesting machinery is adapted to lift the lettuce clear from the ground and grip it in between pinch belts. The lettuce’s outer, or ‘wrapper’, leaves will be mechanically removed to expose the stem. Machine vision and artificial intelligence are then used to identify a precise cut point on the stem to to neatly separate the head of lettuce.

“The cutting process of an iceberg is the most technically complicated step in the process to automate, according to teammates from G subsidiary Salad Harvesting Services Ltd.”, explains IDS Product Sales Specialist Rob Webb. “The prototype harvesting robot being built incorporates a GigE Vision camera from the uEye FA family. It is considered to be particularly robust and is therefore ideally suited to demanding environments. “As this is an outdoor application, a housing with IP65/67 protection is required here”, Rob Webb points out.

GV-5280FA

The choice fell on the GV-5280FA-C-HQ model with the compact 2/3″ global shutter CMOS sensor IMX264 from Sony. “The sensor was chosen mainly because of its versatility. We don’t need full resolution for AI processing, so sensitivity can be increased by binning. The larger sensor format means that wide-angle optics are not needed either”, Rob Webb summarized the requirements. In the application, the CMOS sensor convinces with excellent image quality, light sensitivity and exceptionally high dynamic range and delivers almost noise-free, very high-contrast 5 MP images in 5:4 format at 22 fps – even in applications with fluctuating light conditions. The extensive range of accessories, such as lens tubes and trailing cables, is just as tough as the camera housing and the screwable connectors (8-pin M12 connector with X-coding and 8-pin Binder connector). Another advantage: camera-internal functions such as pixel pre-processing, LUT or gamma reduce the required computer power to a minimum.

The prototype of the robotic mower will be used for field trials in England towards the end of the 2021 season.

“We are delighted to be involved in the project and look forward to seeing the results. We are convinced of its potential to automate and increase the efficiency of the lettuce harvest, not only in terms of compensating for the lack of seasonal workers”, affirms Jan Hartmann, Managing Director of IDS Imaging Development Systems GmbH.

Prototype lettuce harvesting robot of Agri-Epicentre (UK)

The challenges facing the agricultural sector are indeed complex. According to a forecast by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), agricultural productivity will have to increase by almost 50 percent by 2050 compared to 2012 due to the dramatic increase in population. Such a yield expectation means an enormous challenge for the agricultural industry, which is still in its infancy in terms of digitalization compared to other sectors and is already under high pressure to innovate in view of climatic changes and labor shortages. The agriculture of the future is based on networked devices and automation. Cameras are an important building block, and artificial intelligence is a central technology here. Smart applications such as harvesting robots can make a significant contribution to this.

Further development of IDS NXT ocean: focus on user-friendliness and AI transparency

All-in-one embedded vision platform with new tools and functions

(PresseBox) (ObersulmAt IDS, image processing with artificial intelligence does not just mean that AI runs directly on cameras and users also have enormous design options through vision apps. Rather, with the IDS NXT ocean embedded vision platform, customers receive all the necessary, coordinated tools and workflows to realise their own AI vision applications without prior knowledge and to run them directly on the IDS NXT industrial cameras. Now follows the next free software update for the AI package. In addition to the topic of user-friendliness, the focus is also on making artificial intelligence clear and comprehensible for the user.

An all-in-one system such as IDS NXT ocean, which has integrated computing power and artificial intelligence thanks to the “deep ocean core” developed by IDS, is ideally suited for entry into AI Vision. It requires no prior knowledge of deep learning or camera programming. The current software update makes setting up, deploying and controlling the intelligent cameras in the IDS NXT cockpit even easier. For this purpose, among other things, an ROI editor is integrated with which users can freely draw the image areas to be evaluated and configure, save and reuse them as custom grids with many parameters. In addition, the new tools Attention Maps and Confusion Matrix illustrate how the AI works in the cameras and what decisions it makes. This helps to clarify the process and enables the user to evaluate the quality of a trained neural network and to improve it through targeted retraining. Data security also plays an important role in the industrial use of artificial intelligence. As of the current update, communication between IDS NXT cameras and system components can therefore be encrypted via HTTPS.

Just get started with the IDS NXT ocean Creative Kit

Anyone who wants to test the industrial-grade embedded vision platform IDS NXT ocean and evaluate its potential for their own applications should take a look at the IDS NXT ocean Creative Kit. It provides customers with all the components they need to create, train and run a neural network. In addition to an IDS NXT industrial camera with 1.6 MP Sony sensor, lens, cable and tripod adapter, the package includes six months’ access to the AI training software IDS NXT lighthouse. Currently, IDS is offering the set in a special promotion at particularly favourable conditions. Promotion page: https://en.ids-imaging.com/ids-nxt-ocean-creative-kit.html.

Learn more: www.ids-nxt.com

Weiterentwicklung von IDS NXT ocean: Fokus auf Benutzerfreundlichkeit und KI-Transparenz

All-in-One Embedded Vision Plattform mit neuen Werkzeugen und Funktionen

(PresseBox) (ObersulmBei IDS bedeutet Bildverarbeitung mit künstlicher Intelligenz nicht nur, dass die KI direkt auf Kameras läuft und Anwender zusätzlich enorme Gestaltungsmöglichkeiten durch Vision Apps haben. Kunden erhalten mit der Embedded-Vision-Plattform IDS NXT ocean vielmehr alle erforderlichen, aufeinander abgestimmten Tools und Workflows, um eigene KI-Vision-Anwendungen ohne Vorwissen zu realisieren und direkt auf den IDS NXT Industriekameras auszuführen. Jetzt folgt das nächste kostenlose Softwareupdate für das KI-Paket. Im Fokus steht neben dem Thema Benutzerfreundlichkeit auch der Anspruch, die künstliche Intelligenz für den Anwender anschaulich und nachvollziehbar zu machen.

Ein All-in-One System wie IDS NXT ocean, das durch den von IDS entwickelten „deep ocean core“ über integrierte Rechenleistung und künstliche Intelligenz verfügt, eignet sich bestens für den Einstieg in AI Vision. Es erfordert weder Vorkenntnisse in Deep Learning noch in der Kameraprogrammierung. Das aktuelle Softwareupdate macht die Einrichtung, Inbetriebnahme und Steuerung der intelligenten Kameras im IDS NXT cockpit noch einfacher. Hierzu wird unter anderem ein ROI-Editor integriert, mit dem Anwender die auszuwertenden Bildbereiche frei zeichnen und als beliebige Raster mit vielen Parametern konfigurieren, speichern und wiederverwenden können. Darüber hinaus veranschaulichen die neuen Werkzeuge Attention Maps und Confusion Matrix, wie die KI in den Kameras arbeitet und welche Entscheidungen sie trifft. Das macht sie transparenter und hilft dem Anwender, die Qualität eines trainierten neuronalen Netzes zu bewerten und durch gezieltes Nachtraining zu verbessern. Beim industriellen Einsatz von künstlicher Intelligenz spielt auch Datensicherheit eine wichtige Rolle. Ab dem aktuellen Update lässt sich die Kommunikation zwischen IDS NXT Kameras und Anlagenkomponenten deshalb per HTTPS verschlüsseln. 

Einfach loslegen mit dem IDS NXT ocean Creative Kit

Wer die industrietaugliche Embedded-Vision-Plattform IDS NXT ocean testen und das Potenzial für die eigenen Anwendungen evaluieren möchte, sollte einen Blick auf das IDS NXT ocean Creative Kit werfen. Kunden erhalten damit alle Komponenten, die sie für die Erstellung, das Trainieren und das Ausführen eines neuronalen Netzes benötigen. Neben einer IDS NXT Industriekamera mit 1,6 MP Sony Sensor, Objektiv, Kabel und Stativadapter enthält das Paket u.a. einen sechsmonatigen Zugang zur KI-Trainingssoftware IDS NXT lighthouse. Aktuell bietet IDS das Set in einer Sonderaktion zu besonders günstigen Konditionen an. Aktionsseite: https://de.ids-imaging.com/ids-nxt-ocean-creative-kit.html.

Weitere Informationen: www.ids-nxt.de

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