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updated: 11/2/2012 8:08 AM

Purdue gets $6M for robotic grape, apple pruning

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Associated Press

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue University scientists are using $6 million in funding to develop robotic technology that can tackle the laborious task of pruning vineyards and apple orchards.

Associate horticulture professor Peter Hirst is leading the project to develop and improve machines that use cameras and robotic arms to prune grapevines and apple trees. Purdue computer engineering researchers will help develop the software programmed into those robotic arms.

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Pruning grapevines and apple trees is one of the fruit industry's most laborious and costly jobs, consuming about 20 percent of growers' annual labor costs.

The project has received $3 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and another $3 million in matching funds. Its first mission will be improving the prototype of an automated grapevine pruner developed by a California company.

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