UK suppliers Natures Way Foods will install four new robotic "coretakers" in their Chichester processing facility, hugely increasing their capacity in lettuce processing.
The technology, designed by Dr Richard van der Linde of FTNON Delft, utilizes cameras to measure the size of produce and then adjust its grippers to de-core it.
The equipment will be installed in June, processing 1,500 lettuce heads per hour. Van der Linde said: ‘It will be the first high capacity chain line of its kind in the world.”
Natures Way is the only UK company currently using van der Linde’s patented CoreTakr technology, with one already operational.
Speaking at Fruit Logistica in Berlin today, van der Linde said robot technology will only grow as labour shortages hit Europe and the rest of the world.
‘In 2025 there will be only 2.1 working people to one non-working person. The number of people available for this work will decline over the years. There will be a lack of labour in the future.
“There’s an industry that already solved this problem 50 years ago, the automobile industry.
“But a car is not a natural product, it’s not a lettuce. It’s a complicated thing, but its sizes are defined, and it’s always the same. Fruit and veg are always different. A cabbage can be one kilogram, it can be 10. The amount of varieties is infinite.
Describing his own robotic design, van der Linde said: “On the inside there are six cameras and it can detect the shape and form of the product that’s coming by, and it knows how to grab it and rotate it, pivot it in mid-air and take out the core.
“Next to the machine is a highly educated engineer standing with his hands in his pockets. For me this is a metaphor of the future of the produce industry.”