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'Intelligent' Cutters for Trees to Ease Malaysia Palm Oil Labor Crunch

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A worker uses the HARVi on a palm oil estate in Banting, Malaysia.

Automation in the palm oil industry has been slow in part due to the sectors difficult and dangerous conditions.

Credit: IRGA

IRGA, a precision farming solutions provider in Malaysia, has developed a palm oil harvesting tool that could help the industry manage a chronic labor shortage.

The intelligent palm tree cutter, called HARVi, relies on digital sensors to identify the location of the worker and the tree and determine whether the worker is cutting fruit or pruning fronds.

A mobile app makes the data easily accessible and eliminates the need to manually count fruit bunches.

Said IRGA's Girish Ramachandran, "From the tree to the mill there is very, very low digitalization. People are still running manual processes that are absurd."

The industry's grueling conditions, with fruit growing as high as 40 feet off the ground in bunches that weight up to 55 pounds, has posed a challenge for automation. With HARVi, workers can harvest fruit bunches up to 20 feet high, versus 12 to 14 feet currently.

From Bloomberg
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