The WUR research program will develop robots able to handle a wide variety of agri-food products
FlexCraft, a Dutch university research program into the development of cognitive robotics for agri-food processing, has been awarded major government funding.
€2.7 million was awarded by NWO, the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research, and business partners, including Marel Poultry, will invest an additional €1.3 million.
Program manager of FlexCraft is Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in close co-operation with TU Eindhoven, TU Delft, University of Twente, and University of Amsterdam. The program also includes representatives from the industry such as Marel Poultry and German poultry processor Celler Land.
The WUR research program will develop robots able to handle a wide variety of agri-food products. And at the same time taking into account the constantly changing environmental conditions and tasks typical for the agri-food chain.
Marel Poultry is investing in this research as they believe intelligent robots will take on a crucial role in the food industry in the near future. And this program is exactly the kind of robotization Marel Poultry is looking for.
They say that processors are looking for robot technology with more advanced generic capacities. It will help active perception, planning, control, gripping and manipulation of products. FlexCraft will be able to provide relevant support as one of its three cognitive robot projects will focus on poultry processing. Marel Poultry will be the leading industrial partner in the creation and utilization of new integrated solutions involving robotic systems.
“We will be developing generic skills for robots to handle agri-food products of differing shapes, sizes, and firmness,” says WUR program leader, professor Eldert van Henten. “Such actions may be simple for human beings but are tough challenges for robots. Robots need to understand the nature and condition of the food products they perceive and how to approach and treat them. Their sensors collect information, adding this information to their domain knowledge much in the same way as human beings build on their experience.”