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Derek Morikawa's Robots Pick Oranges From Trees (Really)
Photograph by Rennie Solis
Photograph by Rennie Solis

CEO, Vision Robotics
San Diego

Morikawa, 55, makes robots that help growers harvest oranges and prune grapevines.

"In the citrus industry, the cost of labor is going up dramatically and is about half the cost of production. We realized that if we scan the orange tree first, we can tell where 95% to 99% of the oranges are in three dimensions. You can then calculate the most efficient way to pick the oranges, and the robot will do just that. We will be testing the first stage of these robots in California and Washington this year. We already have a prototype that figures out the proper way to prune wine-grape vines; it comes along with robotic arms that have hydraulic sheers, like Edward Scissorhands. And it gives the vines a haircut."

A version of this article appeared in the September 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.