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SBIR Phase I: Robotic Gripper for Fragile Produce

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 1746212
Agency Tracking Number: 1746212
Amount: $225,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: EW
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2017
Award Year: 2018
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2018-01-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2018-10-31
Small Business Information
19 Franklin Road
Winchester, MA 18904
United States
DUNS: 079579425
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Stephen Jens
 (781) 929-5161
Business Contact
 Stephen Jens
Phone: (781) 929-5161
Research Institution

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is that it will enable the automated harvesting of fragile produce such as strawberries to help offset a shrinking workforce and increased labor costs. The world population is expected to grow from 7.3 billion to 11.2 billion by 2100, this population growth and a rising middle class will place more demand on the agricultural industry. Presently, the agricultural industry relies solely on manual labor to harvest its fragile produce. There is no mechanized option that can reliably and cost effectively harvest these crops. Consequently, the industry is struggling to harvest its crop, maintain quality and control its costs. High quality and lower costs can only be maintained if robotic harvesters are utilized that can pick fragile produce without damage. One of the key elements on the automated harvester is a gripper that can grab and pick the produce without damage. There is a market for a reliable and low cost robotic gripper that can gently pick and handle strawberries and other fragile produce. This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project involves the development of a robotic end effector that can be used to harvest and handle fragile produce. Advances in machine vision and robotics has made it possible to commercially harvest fragile produce such as strawberries, however, the key component that still needs to be developed is an end effector that can pick the fruit without damage and be reliable and cost effective. Design and development of this end effector will use a new and novel method for grabbing the strawberry with advances in design, materials and actuation. The proposed R&D plan will involve repeated testing of the interaction between the fruit and the end effector. Analytical studies using a series of thin film load sensors mounted on the end effector will provide real time load profiles that can be used to optimize the design and performance of the end effector. Shelf life testing of the fruit will be used to assess the success of the end effector in properly picking and handling the fruit without damage.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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