Ten days ago, Pierre Fitzibbon, Minister of the Economy and Innovation, accompanied by Danielle McCann, Minister of Higher Education, and André Lamontagne, came to see a prototype of SAMI 4.0 designed for the harvesting of broccoli, in a field of Coustineau Gardens, in Saint-Constant, Quebec. Mr. Fitzibbon emphasized the innovative and pioneering nature of SAMI (Système agricole multifonctionnel intelligent) and announced that the Quebec government would support this project, which, by robotizing fruit and vegetable harvesting, will alleviate labour shortages in the sector.
The SAMI 4.0 robot is designed to automate the harvesting of fruits and vegetables. Using artificial intelligence, robotics and an advanced vision system, it locates and identifies ripe fruits and vegetables and picks only those that are ripe, over a width of forty rows. With it, the lack of manpower is no longer a problem and better still, it increases performance, productivity and harvest management. It is said to pay for itself after only two years.
Designed by Lapalme Conception mécanique, located in Varennes, Montérégie, it was adapted to the agricultural sector following a collaboration with Centris Technologies, the Institut national d’optique (INO) and the Centre de robotique et de vision industrielles (CRVI), which led to a project to automate a manual process capable of meeting specific needs.
In Quebec, artificial intelligence has led to gains in productivity, innovation and efficiency thanks to intelligent machines, such as the one designed by Lapalme Conception mécanique.
The Government of Quebec will therefore provide $1,375,700 (approximately €960,000) in funding for this $2,660,000 (€1,856,000) project. The Innovation Program is providing $1 275 700 (890 000 euros) under a PAA, while the remaining $100 000 will come from Investissement Québec’s own funds.
The Innovation Program was created to support companies, particularly SMBs, in carrying out their innovation projects and commercializing these innovations, whether the projects are carried out in Québec or with partners located abroad.
The objectives of the call for projects are as follows:
- Ensure the development and consolidation of innovation efforts in the field of AI.
- Encourage collaborations between companies (of all sizes, including startups) as well as with the research and innovation communities to accelerate the integration of artificial intelligence technologies in the business community and in society.
- Support structuring projects aimed at the massive adoption of AI in one or more sectors of the economy.
- Support the realization of projects leading to significant and immediate economic benefits.
- Contribute to the positioning of Quebec as a leader in the development of AI.
Mr. Fitzibon stated:
“This is a concrete demonstration of a project where artificial intelligence is applied to a future technology that can be deployed on a large scale. This is the kind of initiative that we must prioritize in order to optimize the productivity of Quebec businesses. We must combine our knowledge of artificial intelligence and our talent for innovation to transform research into business applications.
André Lamontagne explained that:
“With cash receipts exceeding half a billion dollars and sustained growth, the vegetable sector contributes to the healthy nutrition of the Quebec population and the vitality of the regions. However, the scarcity of labour represents a major challenge for the entire bio-food sector. In order to achieve the government’s objective of increasing Quebec’s food autonomy, it is essential to meet this major challenge. In this respect, SAMI has great potential to improve the productivity and competitiveness of vegetable and fruit companies.
Guy LeBlanc, CEO of Investissement Québec, concluded:
“Investissement Québec is pleased to support entrepreneurs and business leaders who demonstrate innovation to ensure their growth and sustainability. The concept developed by Lapalme Mechanical Design is unique: there is no comparable product on the market. Moreover, it combines productivity gains and international marketing potential. These are two key elements of the mandate given to Investissement Québec to contribute to Québec’s sustainable economic growth.