€4 million funding to develop the "Cognitive Robot"
The perfect robot for agri-food operation is on its way to the market as FlexCRAFT, a Dutch university research program concerning cognitive robots for flexible agro-food technology has been awarded a major government funding.
During the annual innovation congress on November 8, the extensive research program FlexCRAFT was granted more than 2.7 million euros. Business partners, including Marel Poultry, will invest 1.3 million euros. Program manager of FlexCRAFT is Wageningen University & Research (WUR), in close cooperation with TU Eindhoven, TU Delft, University of Twente, and University of Amsterdam. The program also includes representatives from the business such as Marel Poultry and Celler Land.
As the leading innovator in the industry, Marel Poultry is committed to an intense cooperation with class-leading universities, said the company in a statement.
"We develop generic skills for robots to handle agro-food products with diverging shape, size, and firmness," says WUR program leader professor Eldert van Henten. “Such actions may be simple for a human being, but tough challenges for a robot. The robot needs to understand what kind of food products it perceives, what condition they are in, and how to approach and treat them. The sensors collect information and add that to their domain knowledge to create a so-called ‘world model’, comparable to the knowledge and experience that people build."
RoboBatcher, one of Marel's creations, already marks a milestone in the automation of food processing. Other processes in the poultry value chain, however, demand for similar robot technology, even with more advanced generic capabilities in active perception, planning, control, gripping, and manipulation. FlexCRAFT can support this, especially since one of its three cognitive robot project cases will focus on poultry processing. In this case, Marel Poultry will be the leading industrial partner to participate in the creation and utilization of a new generation integrated robotics system solutions.
"Food production must be as hygienic, efficient, and sustainable as possible. In addition, fewer and fewer people are willing to do monotonous and heavy work in hot, humid greenhouses, or refrigerated areas where, for example, chicken products are processed. Robots can offer a solution: they can continue working for a long time and also function extremely well at low temperatures", added professor Van Henten.