The soft fruit industry is facing unprecedented challenges due to its reliance of manual labour. We are presenting a newly launched robotics initiative which will help to address the issues faced by the industry and enable automation of the main processes involved in soft fruit production. The RASberry project (Robotics and Autonomous Systems for Berry Production) aims to develop autonomous fleets of robots for horticultural industry. To achieve this goal, the project will bridge several current technological gaps including the development of a mobile platform suitable for the strawberry fields, software components for fleet management, in-field navigation and mapping, long-term operation, and safe human-robot collaboration.
In this paper, we provide a general overview of the project, describe the main system components, highlight interesting challenges from a control point of view and then present three specific applications of the robotic fleets in soft fruit production. The applications demonstrate how robotic fleets can benefit the soft fruit industry by significantly decreasing production costs, addressing labour shortages and being the first step towards fully autonomous robotic systems for agriculture.