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23 Sep 2020

Econ Digest

Use of fruit picking robots: AgriTech to transform the Thai fruit farming sector with investment paid back within 4 years

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Thailand is a major fruit production base globally; although the world economy is facing a crisis due to the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, the total value of Thai fruit exports this year should be able to sustain a growth to THB120-150 billion, or 6.1-10.5% year-on-year. Along with the need to accelerate the improvement of productivity to meet the growing demand for food in the future, it is important to promote the use of more technologies in the agricultural sector, particularly at the harvesting stage of agricultural production, where mostly manual labor is used, in order to harvest fruits of high yield and good quality for sale on the market.

 

              A fruit picking robot is a kind of agricultural technology (AgriTech) with high accuracy compared to manual fruit picking. They can solve the problems that occur in the picking process, especially fruit quality problems, because they can reduce fruit picking losses due to their high accuracy in predicting the timing for fruit picking. The use of a fruit picking robot over its 10-year service life is expected to generate an additional income for farmers totaling about THB5.9 million as a result of the good selling prices achieved. The cost of using a fruit picking robot is around THB0.4 million, which is not much different from the cost of manual labor. Thus, the use of a fruit picking robot instead of manual labor will give farmers an additional profit of about THB5.5 million or THB0.55 million per year, with the investment being paid back in the fourth year after the start of use, reflecting the efficiency of fruit picking robots.

             

KResearch views that Thailand should first use fruit picking robots with high-value fruits such as durians, mangosteens, mangoes and bananas, which are Thailand’s main exported fruits and are quality-conscious to consumers, and secondly with fruits such as longans, lychees and pineapples, which are sold in bulk and are not quality-conscious to consumers as those fruits are mainly processed.

 

Fruit picking robots will not only greatly help Thailand improve the quality of its fruit, but also create added value for Thai export-grade fruits to meet the needs of the consumer market that focuses on quality. This will improve the standards for exports, falling in line with the government’s policy guidelines under the Eastern Fruit Corridor Project to promote Thailand as the “Global Capital of Fruit” by 2021.


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