Plant grafting is the process of combining a strong root system (rootstock) with a desired plant variety (scion). It is used to improve the quality and performance of fruits, vegetables, flowers, woody plants and forest trees. Grafting is the most widely-used practice employed to achieve more durable, resistant and productive plants.
Manual grafting is labour intensive and inefficient. An alternative method is needed to cultivate stronger plants without using pesticides or genetic modification. FuturaGraft has engineered a robotic machine to enable accurate, efficient and reliable plant grafting replacing the traditional manual labour process.
The FuturaGraft system can graft a tray of plants whilst simultaneously undertaking trimming, clearing and disinfecting. The robot improves nursery operations by increasing capacity and shortening growth time, enables early stage grafting to provide faster recovery, increases yield and produces better quality grafts. Plants grafted by FuturaGraft can grow and survive in lower quality soils as the grafting rootstock strengthens the plant and is resistant to a range of soil-borne diseases.
Within the overall project, FuturaGraft aims to engineer the automatic grafting machine to graft a full tray simultaneously, reach capacity of 5000 plants an hour, automate grafting methods that will increase productivity and reduce water and fertilizer usage, expand the robot’s capability to graft combinations of three plants, and demonstrate and validate the robot grafting process with the involvement of at least one end-user in the field of tomato plants production.