FlexCRAFT, a Dutch university research program into the development of cognitive robotics for agri- food processing, has been awarded major government funding. Marel Poultry has agreed to invest 1.3 million euros in the research because it said intelligent robots will take on a crucial role in the food industry in the near future.
FlexCRAFT is being managed by Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in close cooperation with TU Eindhoven, TU Delft, University of Twente, and University of Amsterdam. The program also includes representatives from the industry such as Marel Poultry and German poultry processor Celler Land.
The WUR research program will develop robots able to handle a wide variety of agri-food products and at the same time taking into account the constantly changing environmental conditions and tasks typical for the agri-food chain.
One of the three cognitive robot projects will focus on poultry processing. In this, Marel Poultry will be the leading industrial partner in the creation and utilisation of a new generation of integrated solutions involving robotic systems.
“We will be developing generic skills for robots to handle agri-food products of differing shapes, sizes and firmness,” said WUR program leader professor Eldert van Henten. “Such actions may be simple for human beings but are tough challenges for robots. Robots need to understand the nature and condition of the food products they perceive and how to approach and treat them. Their sensors collect information, adding this information to their domain knowledge much in the same way as human beings build on their experience.”