Strawberry Fields Forever; Is a Higher Minimum Wage Really the Answer? To What?

Courtesy of Mish.

Japan Times reports the Latest Robot can Pick Strawberry Fields Forever

Fruits of ingenuity: Agricultural machinery maker Shibuya Seiki and the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization demonstrate a robot that can pick ripe strawberries at the annual Auto-ID and Communication Expo at the Tokyo Big Sight convention center Wednesday. | AFP-JIJI

The device, unveiled Wednesday, can pick a piece of fruit every eight seconds by using three cameras to determine which strawberries are ready to pick. A mechanized arm then darts out to snip each one free and place it into its basket.

The 2-meter robot moves on rails between rows of strawberries, which in Japan are usually grown in elevated greenhouse planters.

It “calculates the degree of ripeness from the color of the strawberry, which it observes with two digital cameras,” said Mitsutaka Kurita, an official at Shibuya Seiki, the developer of the machine.

“It also uses the images from the two cameras to calculate the distance from the target, then approaches the strawberry it is aiming at,” he said.

A third camera takes a detailed photo of the fruit, which it uses for the final calculation before moving in to snip it.

Strawberry farming is highly labor-intensive, requiring 70 times the work of rice farming and twice that of tomatoes and cucumbers, according to the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization, which helped develop the robot.

The robot will go on sale early next year for about ¥5 million. Strawberries are available all year round in Japan and typically fetch ¥500 for a small basket.

Forever?

In his December 2012 Outlook, Pimco’s Bill Gross also wrote Strawberry Fields – Forever? It’s worth a recap now.

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