Würth Elektronik and Organifarm's BERRY robot

20th January 2023
Harry Fowle

Würth Elektronik enables Organifarms’ BERRY robot to harvest 24/7 throughout the year

Thanks to an LED board from Würth Elektronik, the BERRY harvesting robot from Organifarms – the German AgriTech start-up – detects the level of ripeness of strawberries, even under difficult lighting conditions in an indoor farm or a greenhouse. The cooperation was first presented at the Digital Life Design Conference (DLD) in Munich.

How do we feed people in the future? How can agriculture be made more sustainable and efficient? And what changes and technological developments are needed to achieve this? These are the questions that interest the agricultural industry and those looking to improve the status quo. These include Organifarms, a 2020 start-up driven by the prospect of more sustainable agriculture, which has developed a harvesting robot by the name of BERRY. The first prototype for strawberry harvesting emerged just a year after its founding.

A cooperation between Organifarms and Würth Elektronik was presented for the first time on 13th January 2023 to the tech-savvy audience at DLD in Munich. In a TechTalk moderated by Aman Dogra, Head of Germany at Financial Times, Hannah Brown, CCO of Organifarms together with Alexander Gerfer, CTO of Würth Elektronik eiSos, provided an insight into the collaboration.

Overcoming technological obstacles – in the agricultural sector too

Start-ups often face technological challenges in their daily routine. Even though these obstacles may be relatively minor, they can lead to scaling problems if no solution is found within a short time – because the competition never sleeps. Würth Elektronik is aware of this problem and acknowledges its responsibility in supporting companies of all sizes as a strong partner for developing innovations. By steadily expanding its optoelectronics business, the company has also promoted specific projects in the agricultural sector for several years now. Its proprietary LEDs and lighting concepts, for example, drive the seminal field of indoor and vertical farming.

Innovative LED solutions for smart agriculture

Light is also crucial for detecting ripe fruit. The violet light in the artificial light of a greenhouse has to be neutralised for BERRY to detect and harvest ripe strawberries. This is where Würth Elektronik came on the scene in June 2022. The company's support will lead to an LED board developed to enable the start-up to build the innovative lighting concept for BERRY.

“BERRY will soon be able to distinguish ripe from unripe berries even under low-light conditions – that's a gigantic developmental step,” according to Hannah Brown, CCO of Organifarms. “By cooperating with Würth Elektronik, we were able to overcome another obstacle on our way to a fully autonomous harvester.”

The LED board will help reduce food waste in the future, as only ripe strawberries are picked. BERRY reduces the burden on farmers who depend on helpers for harvesting. A further benefit: The lighting concept allows the autonomous robot to also work at night. So harvesting is possible 24/7. But that’s not all by a long shot. Organifarms and Würth Elektronik are already working on further optimising and adding applications for the robot. BERRY could also be used specifically for pesticide management in the future, as LEDs can be used for UV-C disinfection treatment in the greenhouse. Mutual cooperation could drastically reduce the use of pesticides in the future.

“The future of agriculture is close to my heart, as I grew up on a farm. So, I'm especially pleased to be actively involved in shaping projects in this sector,” says Alexander Gerfer, CTO of Würth Elektronik eiSos, commenting on the collaboration. “There are numerous innovative ideas for promoting sustainability, managing more efficiently, and reducing the burden on farmers. But, as is so often the case, the devil is in the detail, and a good idea can fail due to a single component. With the aid of our LED board, the BERRY harvesting robot from Organifarms attains the level of functionality it offers customers today. As the technology experts, it is important for us to support AgriTech startups with our knowledge and solutions and thus bring innovations to market faster for sustainable agriculture. We are also expanding our own horizons with strong and visionary partners to prepare us today for what lies ahead tomorrow.”

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