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Fruit sorting systems have been in production use for years. They're very impressive. Vision systems, AI, robotics, and the ability to handle huge quantities of produce.

Here's a production scale apple sorting and packing system.[1] The part of the video for "big plant" shows the most automated version.

Here's a system for sorting peas.[2] Each individual pea is inspected using computer vision. Each individual pea. Anything that doesn't look like a perfect pea is kicked out by an air jet. Take a look at the speed at which the system is running, as a wide conveyor belt feeds hundreds of peas per second through the machine, with the good ones coming out on one conveyor and the rejects on another. That one machine is doing a job a thousand hand sorters could not do.

Automated cherry grading.[3] This video has a good explanation of what's going on, as size, color, stem length, and defects are all checked by a computer vision system. That system can process over 700Kg/hour of cherries. "We're enabling our clients to massively reduce their sorting staff."

Tomato sorting machine.[4] This video has slow-motion sections so you can see the tomatoes being sorted. The machine is far too fast for humans to even see what it's doing.

There are vision-based sorting machines for almost every kind of produce, and they're in wide use all over the world. All this automated sorting means that customers no longer need to examine produce in the supermarket. The rejects were removed at the plant, and turned into animal feed or something. This makes services like Amazon Fresh possible.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cprDuf0ASzU [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyGR6A5MWG0 [3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3jlq03Gviw [4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lz88nsWL4kw

The machines showed in these videos seem suited for very large and expensive processing facilities, which probably are cost-effective because one supplies the consumption of millions to tens of millions of people. But how smaller producers can automatize their processing without owning or depending on these facilities? Would robots that cost of the order of tens of thousands euros / dollars, that automate more flexibly but slowly than the machines in the videos, be cost-effective for smaller producers? How big is the market for such robots?

Your confusing the sorting aspect with the 'picking' aspect. Right now a lot of fruit ends up on the ground and never makes it to the sorting facility.

I think you underestimate the quality of a thousand hand sorters. That machine may replace on the order of a hundred hand sorters, but I doubt it's 1000.

6 metric tons of peas per hour per machine. The machine examines the pea from all sides while the pea is in free fall. A human would have to pick up each pea to do a comparable job. A kilogram of peas is about 4000 peas, so 1000 humans would each have to examine 24,000 peas per hour each, or 6 peas per second, to keep up.

Okay, 6000 peas per second is more than a thousand people could do. I was basing my response off your original description of "hundreds of peas per second" while I know humans can sort at a rate of more than 1 pea per second.

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