Jun 2022

BEST OF 2022 – Robotic Labour Assist Platform developed in New Zealand

In a New Zealand First – FTEK demonstrate their prototype robotic modular platform demonstrating the layering attachment.

Last month New Zealand growers & industry partners were given an exciting glimpse into the future of greenhouse crop maintenance & harvesting autonomy with FTEK.

Their RLAP (Robotic labour assist platform) is the latest product development by FTEK, a company that over the past 10 years has broken into the Australasian greenhouse equipment market by challenging the conventional.

Back in 2019 Brothers James and Mark Currie, owners of FTEK were approached by Tomatoes NZ, and other major growers to help solve the ever-increasing labour challenges the industry is facing.

FTEK initiated this project by investigating labour intensive and repetitive jobs greenhouse tomato growers conduct on a regular basis. They looked at layering, de-leafing, clipping, pruning, and harvesting.

They identified tomato layering as a strategic early tangible solution. “This was a perfect task to begin with as it presents the heaviest and highest vertical requirements when undertaking plant maintenance, we now have a very capable modular robotic platform that can reach up to 5 meters says James”. From day one they set out to build a multipurpose machine that would have the potential to carry out numerous tasks throughout the crop with a single platform utilizing interchangeable task specific tools/attachments developed.

Consideration for integration and investing in an adaptable machine that will be of huge benefit to growers was clever. Last week, in a New Zealand first, FTEK displayed their prototype to a large group of growers and suppliers. With huge anticipation growers were mesmerised by the technology that will have the potential to revolutionise the industry. FTEK discussed the demo is running at about a third of the speed the robot is capable of once fully trained and optimised for this task.

To advance this concept FTEK has tapped into their existing and field proven technology having evolved the TEKspray a fully autonomous precision crop sprayer and TEKlift, an industry only telescopic mast work platform. The real game changer being the smart computer vision & robotic motion control system developed by their clever and dynamic software team!

RLAP Features:
  • State of the art machine vision and learning
  • Powerful robot user interface software runs in real time accessible via a user network
  • Remote monitoring and debugging network interface, 3D tasking simulation.
  • Self-levelling telescopic Mast (will also report and store data of unsafe areas)
  • Field proven hardware & control system
  • Interchangeable tooling with dual arm tasking capability
  • Fully Autonomous row changing and product handling with Smart Docking Station
  • Crop data recording (platform designed for auxiliary vision & sensory data collection)

The next step is field trials over the next 6 months with the layering attachment. During this time, FTEK aims to raise capital to bring the machine to market, and work toward a roll out of additional crop tasking attachments & solutions. James and Mark want to prove the technology in their local market first, they will assess and perfect RLAP here, before launching internationally. There is no doubt this system will attract huge international attention, the multiple labour saving, and reporting capabilities has the potential to be the biggest revolution in greenhouse equipment in decades.


FTEK Robotics software team who worked on the project.  BACK L-R, Richard Ashcroft, Tim Rensen, Vanshika Lal. FRONT, FTEK Directors James and Mark Currie

To learn more contact FTEK on info@ftek.co.nz, ph +64092392607, www.ftek.co.nz


A large group of very excited growers and industry leaders turned out to the first glimpse of the prototype.  Congratulations to FTEK for this outstanding achievement.


Article written and compiled by Stefan Vogrincic

All Article’s checked and edited by Marie Vogrincic

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