Reshaping Northern Australia’s farming future through innovation

Croc Pitch Agricultural Robotics

Agricultural Robotics aims to revolutionise mango farming and boost the Northern Territory economy, with the world’s first robotic mango harvester.

Dr Amanda White, Founding Director of Agricultural Robotics, and her team are driven by a passion for sustainable agriculture. They are committed to leveraging cutting-edge technology to address agricultural industry challenges.

On Tuesday, 25th July 2023, Amanda and fellow Director, William Pagnon travelled to Darwin to present their innovative technology at Darwin Innovation Hub’s annual Croc Pitch event. Through their innovative technology, Amanda captivated the attention of the Croc Panel, securing $1 million in venture capital from Paspalis Innovation Investment Fund (PIIF).

“Seeing Amanda bring this harvesting robotic hand to large mango farms in the NT is absolutely fantastic. We think this patented technology has a huge future for local manufacturing and global exports.” – Harley Paroulakis, CEO of Paspalis

Already having secured funds with the Federal Government’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme through an Accelerating Commercialisation grant, PIIF’s additional $1 million in venture capital funding will mean Agricultural Robotics is well-positioned to make a lasting impact on the industry and pave the way for a more efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable future for mango growers.

Croc Pitch agricultural robotics

What is their groundbreaking innovation? The harvesting of mangoes is automated using artificial intelligence fruit sensing technology, coupled with pneumatic grippers that grasp each ripe mango and drop it onto a conveyor with a 76% success rate. The auto harvester is fitted on a self-propelled semi-autonomous vehicle.

Their technology not only addresses the scarcity of labour and the extremely narrow fruit harvesting window but is also cheaper, faster, and better:

  • Less cost: significantly reduced labour and overhead costs by up to 32%.
  • Less time: Less than 5 seconds per fruit pick (arm cycle) per arm with multiple arms working simultaneously
  • Better OHS: improved worker safety and comfort; low to no contact with the acidic sap
  • Better data: the potential to provide real-time fruit number and size information to the packhouse during harvest

“At the event, our vision for revolutionising mango forecasting and harvesting garnered significant recognition, validating our talented team’s hard work and dedication. At the core of this innovation lies a commitment to mango harvest reliability and safety – offsetting critical labour shortages and addressing food waste. We believe this technology will drive economic growth and create a strong positive impact on the mango industry.

Our success at Croc Pitch 2023 and the substantial investment from PIIF will undoubtedly propel the commercialisation of this new-to-market product. We are excited to partner with stakeholders who share our passion for innovation and sustainability in Northern Australia.” – Agricultural Robotics

After several years of trials and the installation of new mechanics, camera systems and grippers, lead researcher Professor Kerry Walsh says the harvester’s development is on the home stretch. Niceforo Farms, one of Australia’s largest mango companies, has signed on as Agricultural Robotics’ commercial partner. In October, the farm will open to the public for a field day that includes demonstration of the technology.

In order to accelerate the process of commercialisation, PIIF is investing in the Northern Australian based manufacturing. It’s clear that investing in mango will create ripple effects in supply chain, logistics, and mango associates. Within 5 years, Agricultural Robotics plans to diversify into other fruit groups with its versatile technology.

“Technology and farming go together – agriculture is a complex modern industry. Niceforo Farms are early adopters, but we see NT farmers investing in themselves and their properties, growing their businesses with ag-tech.” – Daniel Niceforo, Director of Niceforo Farms

Commercial partner Niceforo Farms represent the next generation of mango growers, with Directors Daniel and Ryan Niceforo taking on the family mantle from their father Nino. They primarily work with the Calypso cultivar of mango, delivering 20% of the total mango harvest domestically. Niceforo Farms have plantations across the Northern Territory, including in Darwin, Katherine and Mataranka.

“Croc Pitch 2023 not only showcased the remarkable potential of entrepreneurial spirit but also fostered a spirit of collaboration and community within the North Australia startup ecosystem. The event’s impact will undoubtedly reverberate through the innovation landscape for years to come.

To PIIF, thank you for championing the cause of innovation and providing a stage for dreamers and doers to shine. Your dedication to supporting startups and driving economic growth in the region is simply inspiring.” – Amanda White, Director of Agricultural Robotics

Agricultural Robotics