Concept: Israeli startup ‘Arugga AI Farming’ (Arugga) has developed TRATA, an autonomous ground robot that treats and monitors individual plants in the greenhouse. It is tested in a greenhouse owned by Australian grower Costa Group Holdings. The startup aims to increase yield compared with insects and human workers.

Nature of Disruption: TRATA’s pollination technology mimics bumble bees’ buzz pollination. It leverages AI and is equipped with cameras that help the pollination robot to travel down a row in the greenhouse autonomously and detect flowers that are ready to be pollinated. It then uses the air-pressure mechanism which applies calibrated air pulses to the selected flower to burst and pollinate them. The cameras and air nozzles are on a mast and can reach up to a height of about 13 feet. To make the robot, Arugga implemented deep learning technology so that the robot can start recognizing patterns independently without human intervention. The startup claims that without deep learning, a similar robot would have been more expensive and would have taken a long time to build. TRATA functions only in optimal temperature and humidity levels of the greenhouse. The solution can bring about key benefits to growers currently working with bees by providing a non-contact solution that can prevent the spread of bees-related diseases. Also, it can avoid the challenges faced by bees in LED-lit greenhouses. Moreover, it enables the use of UV screening to minimize pest stress.

Outlook: Arugga is working on additional modules to be used in conjunction with pollination. The startup aims to assist growers with time-consuming and difficult tasks such as pruning, pest and disease detection, and yield prediction. The patent-pending, non-contact solution could help growers save money on labor. Arugga plans to offer growers early information on outbreaks and enable quick local treatment by monitoring all plants daily, but this will eventually be delivered by the robots themselves. This could help to cut down on costs, losses, and pesticide usage. The startup aims to bring to market a novel technology that could monitor fruit count and weight in the greenhouse in collaboration with an Israeli agriculture research institution. Growers should be able to establish more cost-effective business partnerships with distributors with the aid of this technology.