Drones carry both pickers and berries next season

Berrypicker flies on drone.jpg

Caption: The Ferox project has developed a heavy drone suitable for berry picking. The picture is made with AI.

Getting wild berry pickers for the upcoming harvest season is a burning issue for the whole berry chain. After the Ministry of Foreign Affairs unexpectedly announced on 15 March that Thai pickers will no longer be issued Schengen visas, there has been concern in the field about the timetable for the new policy. There is simply not enough time to deal with the challenges of the employment contracts required by the decision, nor with the worker's residence permit process.

However, there is a surprising solution to the picker problem. The Arctic Favours Association, a nationwide association for the natural products sector, is involved in the FEROX research project, which researches the use of technological solutions, robotics and artificial intelligence in making picking work more efficient. Among other things, the project develops the use of drones both in collecting berry data and in lightening the work of pickers.

The FEROX project involves nine partners from seven different countries. The project's coordinator, Paul Chippendale, estimates that the technology could help pickers as early as next season. 

- I am surprised at how quickly our international research team has progressed in development, rejoices Chippendale.

Drones carrying pickers and berry catches have already yielded promising results. Drones carrying a payload of up to 200 kg, with 12 to 18 hours of battery life, significantly lighten and enhance picking work.

- I believe that the new technology will inspire Finnish pickers, and it may be a solution to the looming picker shortage, says Birgitta Partanen, Executive Director of Arctic Flavours Association.

The project team will test the technology in Finland for terrain conditions in the next season. If the tests are successful as desired, the collaborators will be prepared to move the drones to mass production, which will significantly reduce the unit price.

The pilot version of the drone will be presented at Suomussalmi Marketplace starting at 12 noon on 1 April.

More information about the FEROX project: (The link opens in a new window)