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Tea Picking Robotic System


Development, Manufacturing and Testing of the Prototype of Robotic System for Selective Picking of a Tea Leaf; Research of Optimum Performance and Prospects of Improvement

Tech Area / Field

  • AGR-OTH/Other/Agriculture
  • MAN-ROB/Robotics/Manufacturing Technology

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Institute of Cybernetics, Georgia, Tbilisi


  • [Individual specialist]\nKIMA Echtzeitsysteme GmbH, Germany, Jülich\nTrident Technical College, USA, SC, Charleston\nMartin Bauer Georgian GmbH, Germany, Vestenbergsgreuth\nCranfield University / Institute of Water and Environment, UK, Silsoe

Project summary

The Goal of the Project. The goal of the project is development, manufacturing and test of prototype, as well as research of optimum performance and prospects of robotic system for selective picking of a tea leaf, based on the concept elaborated under the project ISTC G-062-2. Creating of such system is important national problem of Georgia, as well as of the other countries, where tea-growing is leading field of economy. The reasons of such importance are defined hereunder.

The state of the art in the Field of Research. Consumption of tea, along with its price, constantly grows all over the world. The number of the countries producing tea, areas planted with it and number of tea-growing facilities are rapidly growing.

Over sixty percent of labor expenses fall on leaf picking; we can see stable trend of growing of pickers’ work cost in the countries manufacturing tea.

The quality of the mass consumption tea is permanently falling dawn, and one of the main reasons for this is so called “small mechanization” – hand picking machines, which do not provide for required quality of collected raw leafs, cause degeneration and early ageing of the plants. The similar and other significant imperfections are characteristic for so called mobile machines.

Works on mechanization of selective picking of tea leaf were begun in the first half of twentieth century. Mechanical systems of various types were developed: so called hand, portable and mobile machines. The hand machines were most popular due to their relative simplicity and low cost. In spite of some success, the final solution of selective picking problem was not found. Developed mechanical tea-picking systems are having highly limited possibilities in selective picking. Although, the wide use of such systems allowed rising of labor productivity, it caused total lowering of massive consumption tea quality and persely affected conditions of the plantations. All this made clear that attempts to resolve the problem purely by mechanical means can not bring us to the acceptable results.

Novelty. Novelty of the concept developed under project G-062-2 is in idea of attracting to the resolution of the problem of selective picking of tea leaf not only traditional mechanical means, but also modern methods and cybernetic, electronic and optoelectronic means. Within the frame of this project and based on the mentioned concept, we will design, build and test prototype of science intensive, competitive robotic tea-picking system of new generation, which will most fully respond to the requirements of tea-growing industry.

Essence of Work. The project envisages conducting of following works:

1. In accordance with the concept elaborated under the project ISTC G-062-2, we will develop, prepare and test prototype of system for selective picking of tea leaf, which is intended for long term and reliable working at the plantations. Prototype will be a device suspended to the self-propelled chassis with high road clearance specially adopted for the conditions of tea plantation. The devise contains automatic stabilization system, which maintains cutting tool in specific (say horizontal) position, regardless inclinations of vertical axis of chassis on ground asperities. The device also contains automatic control system of depth of submergence into rough layer, which is formed by new sprouts over the surface of tea trim hedge. The last system contains block of simple technical vision, which is the system of non-contact tactile sensors, working on principle of beam chopping and electric logical block defining depth of submergence.

2. It is known that tool, which is used for picking of tea leaf, defines picking tactics. We will design dynamic mathematical model of tea bush and based on it we will develop tactics of picking by robotic system, which, based on the economical criteria, will optimize not one particular action, but long term operation at the plantation.

3. We will consider reasonability of applying the combined power supply system, which will be oriented towards maximal consumption of solar energy and will provide for maximal economy and minimal harm to the environment.

4. We will consider possibility of creating of economically reasonable tea-picking systems, in which optimum performance is achieved not based on average statistical characteristics of rough layer, but by inpidual analyses of image of each particular sprout.

Expected Results. Multiple imitational experiments conducted under project G-062-2, showed high efficiency of new concept. Particularly, the system, which should be created under this proposal will provide for 85-90% contents of tender fraction in collected raw leaves, and if we assume some losses, this content can be raised up to 95%, or even more. This will be maximally approximated to the hand picking.

Creating of robotic tea-picking system envisaged by this project, will allow us to significantly decrease problems faced by tea-growers. The systems of new generation will provide for high quality raw leafs, will not damage plantations, will eliminate problems concerned with the lack of the labor, will have the same output volume as existing mobile machines and high economic effectiveness. The tea-picking system of new generation will interest companies producing agricultural devices. The companies, which will pay attention to our works at this stage, will get huge market and tea-growers will get possibility of reducing costs and raising product quality.

Competence of the project team in the specified area. The main part of the participants of this proposal are working on the problem of selective picking of tea leaf by the means and methods of cybernetics, electronics and optoelectronics by the order of State Committee on Science and Technologies of Georgia since 1986. (Lezhava G., Kamkamidze I., Voloshina E., Tavzarashvili N. «Technical vision of robotic system for the selective picking of a tea sheet». The theses of the reports of a scientific and technical seminar «Optoelectronic sensors for robotic complexes». Fergana, 1988. Lezhava G., Kamkamidze I., Voloshina E. «The Module of the cutting device of the machine for tea picking». The copyright certificate USSR # 1545992, 1989. Lezhava G., Kamkamidze I. «The device for tea picking». The copyright certificate USSR # 1711355, 1991. Lezhava G., Kamkamidze I., Voloshina E. «The Automated system of the selective tea picking». The theses of the reports of the international conference «Means and systems of automation and management of processes in an agriculture», Palanga, 1991).

In the first half of nineties, due to a lack of support, these works were practically stopped and group begun to break up. In 1997, the board of ISTC made decision on financing of the project proposal made by group of scientists. The aim of this project was creation of robotic system for selective picking of tea (project G-062-2). By now, we have elaborated the concept of the system. The concept was elaborated and tested by mathematical and computer imitational models on the basis of big volume statistic data, collected at the plantations in western Georgia. The particular subsystems were elaborated and tested by special stands and experimental models. These works demonstrated effectiveness of the elaborated concept.

Role of Foreign Collaborators. The present Project Proposal has been coordinated with all collaborators: with Mr. Mack Fleming, with William Stephens, with experts of the company «Martin Bauer» (all they were collaborators project G-062-2 also), and with new collaborators: with Mr. William Morgan and with Mr. Peter Kalkert. Separate elements of the Project Proposal were developed together with experts of the company «American Classic Tea» during business trip of the manager of project G-062-2 in Charleston (USA). The Work Plan will be coordinated with collaborators also.

During performance the project information interchange and joint consideration of technical reports will be carried out.

Together with experts of company "Martin Bauer" will carry out research on optimization of long-term operation of a plantation with use developed tea picking systems of new generation.

Joint meetings and consultations basically with experts of the company «Martin Bauer» and the companies «КIMA Echtzeitsysteme» will be carried out.

Tests of the prototype will be carried out together with experts of the company «Martin Bauer». During period of performance of these works the company will provide us the special three-wheeled chassis, on which the developed systems will be suspended, a plantation in the western Georgia, the working area and a premise for storage of the equipment.

The company «КIMA Echtzeitsysteme» will consider an opportunity of manufacturing of a small series tea picking systems if during tests high efficiency of the new approach will prove to be true.

Consultations on questions of the rights to the intellectual property will be carried out in case of joint inventions. In case of need other forms of co-operation will be applied.

Meeting ISTC Goals and Objectives. The project will allow the scientists, for many years working on the military problems, to direct their effort towards the solution of national technical problem and conduct peaceful works. Analyses showed that there will be stable demand for the tea-picking systems of new generation, which will be able to significantly decrease the number of the problems accumulated in the field. Thus, the project has sufficient commercial potential; it will assist to switch scientists working on military problems to the activities complying with the goals of ISTC, provide them with the long term outlook of professional activities and possibility of involvement in the world scientific society.

Technical Approach and Methodology. Tea-picking is a specific process, which fundamentally differs from the process of collecting fruits or cereals. Thus, robotic picking system requires specific approach and technical solutions. The basics of the technical approach and methodology were defined in accordance with the researches conducted under project G-062-2 and results of researches of Japanese (Kuno Kiroku, Nakano Fujio and others, “Development and Testing of Experimental Tea-picking Machine”, the project of experimental tea-growing station, Sijouka prefecture) and Georgian (Kostava N. A. «Tea picking machine». The copyright certificate of the USSR № 74603, 1947) specialists. In the course of this project, we will use methods of mathematical (statistical) modeling, computer imitational models and field tests of the system.

Total volume of the work will make approximately 250 man-months. Project Duration 36 months.


The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia with their peers and research organizations in the EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States.


ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with CIS and Georgian institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

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