Virginia Tech AgBot autonomously harvests watermelons

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) A team of engineers at Virginia Tech created a robot to help farmers harvest watermelon.
They use an autonomous four-wheeler that drives up along side the watermelons. Then the machine taps the watermelon to determine if its ripe. If it is, the robot scoops the melon into the cart.

Alexander Leonessa, a professor of mechanical engineering, says finding new ways to use technology in farming is vital to keep the industry moving forward.

"It's important because farming in general is a very hard job, a very demanding job," Leonessa said. "And providing farmers with technology that can help them to alleviate a little bit of the heavy jobs and help them out is important."

In May, the team won first place at the AgBot Challenge in Indiana with their harvesting robot. It's just in its research phase right now with no immediate plans to market the machine to the farming community.