[11 May/Radio NZ]

Labour shortages in orchards could be a thing of the past with robotic machines picking up the work. The robotic apple packers will be released commercially later in the month. Robotic Plus Chief Technology Officer, Alistair Scarfe, said there was no reason robotics could not be developed for horticulture such as kiwifruit. He added it was exciting to see what other produce they could apply it to. They found that to apply and tune the machine for other produce was feasible. The machine takes graded-apples and rotates them and packs them into display trays for markets. Mr Scarfe noted the machine was equivalent to about two people working on presentation quality packs. He described the innovation as assistive-technology because it freed up resources for more critical roles.