Automated Fruit and Vegetable Harvesting

Automated Solutions for Fruit and Vegetable Production: Picking Robots with Ripeness Detection

Benefit from efficient and reliable harvesting technology. Invest in AI and robotic harvesting solutions.

© Fraunhofer IPK / Larissa Klassen

Automated Harvesting Technology with the Help of Artificial Intelligence

There is great interest in economical, automated harvesting techniques for fruits and vegetables. Robot-assisted gripping and harvesting strategies enable precise harvesting of different varieties, thanks to vision-based processes for flexible gripper positioning and path planning.

© Fraunhofer IPK / Larissa Klassen
© Fraunhofer IPK / Larissa Klassen

Combination of Image Processing and Robotics for Handling and Gripping Fruit and Vegetables    

Fraunhofer IPK has been working for many years and in several projects on the development of flexible grippers, gripping strategies with passive compliance and handling with controlled force regulation. The gripping and handling of fruits, the necessary flexibility of the system to interact with grown plants - these are all difficult tasks that have not yet been solved. The variety of shapes and sizes requires a highly flexible solution. Our expertise lies not only in getting the robotic harvester to recognize the individual fruits, but also to securely approach the necessary positions and grip the fruit without damaging it. 

Fraunhofer IPK's innovative solution provides the basis for automated harvesting. The topology of plants and fruits is highly variable in terms of shape and geometry. In addition, fruits can be distributed over a plant. By using AI-based algorithms, fruits can be reliably identified, harvesting processes can be automated, and efficiency can be sustainably increased. Overall, innovative automated harvesting technologies offer many benefits to the agricultural industry and will help increase crop yields while maintaining optimal quality.

Harvesting Robotics

Although harvesting robots can be used virtually around the clock, they still need to have human-like cycle times while being highly reliable in recognizing and harvesting fruit. One approach in a previous research project was to use a two-armed robot. This robot was already able to recognize certain types of vegetables between the leaves and to pick and place them gently with its two gripper arms, even in adverse weather conditions. Three different gripper prototypes have been developed and tested under real-life conditions:

  • a gripper based on vacuum technology,
  • a bionic gripper jaw (Fin-Ray), and 
  • a »cucumber hand« modified from the OpenBionics robotic hand.  

In order to develop robot programmin, video analyses of movement sequences during manual harvesting provide important insights into individual movement elements such as "two-handed searching" and "grasping". In addition to touch sensitivity and adaptability to environmental conditions, human grasping movements can now be imitated. Pre-programmed behavior patterns enable the robot to search for fruits and vegetables with two hands in a human-like manner. The fruit can be picked flexibly "on the fly". After recognizing a fruit, the robot should approach it, grab it securely, and separate it from the plant.

There are many benefits of automated fruit and vegetable harvesting: the initial cost of a robot is quickly amortized compared to the annual salary of a worker, and it offers a high level of reliability. The innovative harvesting technology opens up new possibilities for agriculture and increases the efficiency of the harvesting process by saving time and money.

Automation Solutions in the Agricultural Industry

Innovative gripper systems enable efficient harvesting of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.


The agricultural industry is increasingly trying to develop solutions to both combat climate change and remain economically viable under changing climatic conditions. In particular, greenhouse and vertical farming already offer the possibility of growing a wide variety of crops under constant environmental conditions, regardless of climatic changes. The conditions can be specifically adjusted to change plant characteristics and increase yields. In addition, the use of water, nutrients and light can be optimized to conserve resources. The automation of harvesting processes also offers great potential for making agriculture sustainable and future-proof.  

Identifying fruits and vegetables, which are often partially or completely covered by leaves of the same color, is a real challenge. Production is under increasing economic pressure, especially because harvesting is labor-intensive and therefore costly. Inconsistent light conditions in the field and irregular plant arrangement make it difficult to identify the fruits and vegetables to be harvested. 

Automating the harvesting process offers many economic benefits. Some vegetables, for example, require up to 30 harvest cycles per season. Without improved harvesting technology, it is expected that such harvest cycles will soon be economically unviable in Germany. In addition, the shortage of harvesters makes automation a necessity if we want to continue to source fruits and vegetables from local farms.

Profile and Solutions

Fraunhofer IPK's technology for automated harvesting is based on artificial intelligence that recognizes fruit and vegetable varieties and their degree of ripeness.

Our profile

Our many years of experience with small and large industrial partners in the automotive and mechanical engineering sectors have given us in-depth knowledge of a wide range of industrial processes. The technical challenges of our customers, e.g. in the automated assembly of cables, flexible screw connections in vehicles or mobile manipulation, e.g. loading and unloading of machine tools, are comparable to the problems in the field of agricultural harvesting.

In addition, Fraunhofer IPK has already worked on the development of robot-based harvesting technology in several projects. In the "Catch" project, for example, we developed a two-arm robot system for use in cucumber harvesting and implemented it in a prototype. A control system with efficient task-oriented programming for the two-arm robot was developed to plan, program and control the robot's behavior.

We strongly believe that it is worth investing in automated harvesting technology and developing it with our help. Work with us to develop a modern automation solution and benefit from our experience in agricultural robotics. 


This is how we find solutions together

  • We work with you to determine the automation potential in terms of cost effectiveness and foreseeable labor shortages.
  • We work out the requirements for a customized and future-proof solution with the goal of harvesting with high precision and speed. 
  • We develop exemplary systems (PoC) to demonstrate the feasibility of the developed solutions. 
  • We cooperate with strong partners with the relevant know-how in all areas of agricultural technology.

Let us address your challenges and cultivation methods together. Together with our partner IME, we will develop the optimal system for your conditions.

The solution is interesting for these sectors:



  • Food industry
  • Agricultural industry
  • Robotics industry / suppliers 


Solutions for automated fruit and vegetable harvesting

Get in touch

We look forward to discussing your individual challenge and presenting our solutions. Contact us for a no-obligation consultation to learn more about our solution.