A new robot that can help with orchard jobs, such as spraying and pruning, has been unveiled at a conference in the United States.
Tauranga-based Robotics Plus has debuted its hybrid vehicle, which was made in New Zealand, at the FIRA event in California, an event dedicated to agricultural robotics.
The autonomous vehicle uses a combination of vision systems and other technologies to sense the environment around it, and use that information to optomise its work.
Robotics Plus' chief executive Steve Saunders said the vehicle can carry out a wide range of tasks on an orchard - including spraying, weed control, mulching, mowing and crop analysis.
"We've created a flexible agricultural platform with the power to adapt to different crop types with tools for various applications, providing year-round automation benefits and maximizing machine utilisation," he said.
"To adapt and thrive in a changing world and create a sustainable and competitive future in the agricultural and specialty tree crop sector - growers and orchardists need automation that solves real-world problems, reduces reliance on increasingly costly and hard-to-find machine operators and provides data-driven insights for informed decision-making."
Saunders said the first application for the technology was intelligent spraying, where the system varies the flow rate to ensure spray efficacy whilst reducing inputs and controls the spray rates and airspeed in zones, responding as the sprayer moves along orchard or vineyard rows.
He said the vehicle could ease the stress for orchardists dealing with the chronic labour shortages blighting the sector, with one staff member able to operate five of the vehicles at once.
"Our multi-purpose vehicle replaces tractors and other tools," he said.
"But, it does much more than just replacing labour - it's loaded with intelligence to improve efficiencies."
Saunders said the vehicle had been well received in America and the first round of pre-orders was going well.