The Yakima Herald-Republic reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave $548,000 earlier this month to assistant professor with WSU's Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems Manoj Karkee.
Karkee envisions a prototype within three to five years and commercially available models within 10. His idea is of a robot reaching its dozen tentacles through the leaves of an apple tree to pick ripe fruit at four times the rate of humans.
His idea is to pair an automated machine with a field employee who would decide how and when to pick apples, when for example, they are obscured behind leaves or in clusters.
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