A Washington State University researcher has won a grant worth nearly $1 million to invent robotic pollinator components.

Manoj Karkee
Manoj Karkee

Manoj Karkee, an associate professor in WSU’s Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems in Prosser, will lead a team of scientists to develop computer sensing and a robotic arm to spread pollen, funded by the three-year U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. Penn State University researchers will collaborate, according to a WSU news release.

Karkee and his colleagues already have a decade of robotics work under their belt, with projects aimed at thinning, pruning and harvest. Some of those components, including the arms, will be adapted to pollination through the research, Karkee said in the release.

The grant funds the team to prove the concept of robotic harvest, not to build a full-scale machine, Karkee said.

In addition to Karkee, the WSU team includes mechanical engineer Changki Mo, horticulturist Matt Whiting and biological systems engineer Qin Zhang. The Penn State team includes horticulturist Jim Schupp and biological systems engineer Long He.

by Ross Courtney

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