California grower pilots autonomous drone harvest pilot program
HMC Farms® has partnered with Tevel Aerobotics Technologies to pilot their drone harvesting system utilizing Flying Autonomous Robots. Each robot has the ability to fly, locate fruit, harvest and place the fruit all on its own with no human interaction required.
Flying Autonomous Robots in HMC Farms orchard.
FMC Farms has a reputation for pursuing cutting edge ag technology. Drew Ketelsen, Vice President and Farm Manager, has a background in civil engineering which gives him a unique perspective on farming and technology. He and Jon McClarty, President of HMC Farms and Drew’s brother-in-law, work together to stay updated on the latest developments and test various forms of ag tech in order to determine the best fit for their farms.
Ketelsen attributes HMC’s high density stone fruit planting system with the ability to utilize drone harvesting. He says, “The years of work we’ve put into cultivating high density orchards are paying off as we implement technology like Flying Autonomous Robot harvesting. We have successfully harvested peaches, nectarines and multiple colors of plums using drones this summer. This project is still in an early stage, but the future potential is very exciting.”
Autonomous harvest options have great potential to fill a crucial need in the agricultural community, which has notoriously dealt with labor shortages over the years. In places like California’s Central Valley, this technology also may help with harvest during periods of extreme heat, as summer temperatures can often reach well above 100 degrees for many days in a row, right at the peak of stone fruit harvest.
High density stone fruit orchard in California.