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Farm Robot

Requirements

  • Must be Open Source.
  • Affordable
  • Robust
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to repair

Open questions

  • Do we want something for small/medium scale or large scale?
  • To be used inside the city? Or at farms?
  • For Interior or exterior or both
  • Which areas of farming do we want to automate?
  • Planting
  • Monitoring
  • Irrigating
  • Pest control
  • Pruning
  • Weeding
  • Harvesting

Considerations

  • “According to FAO (2019b), about 90 percent of farmers worldwide operate on a small scale and the technology must become accessible to this large group.” FAO Agriculture 4.0*

  • “These new platforms tend to be very sophisticated and new types of equipment are continuously being developed; however, simple agrobots designed for basic, straightforward tasks can already help farmers with a wide range of operations.” FAO Agriculture 4.0*

  • “Small robots at an affordable price for purchase or hire represent a potential alternative in areas where manpower is scarce and conventional machinery is not available or is too costly for smallholders.” FAO Agriculture 4.0*

  • “Agrobots can be designed to enable spare parts to be obtained via 3D printing, enabling decentralized production and facilitating the related logistic.” FAO Agriculture 4.0*

  • Harvesting is one of the most labor intensive agricultural activities but also one of the most difficult to automate.

* http://www.fao.org/policy-support/tools-and-publications/resources-details/en/c/1365039/

Key words

  • Precision Agriculture
  • Agriculture 4.0
  • IoT
  • AI/ML
  • Automation
  • Agrobot
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Produce more with less (resources)

Inspirations

Robot car for open-field operations

Probably one of the most popular systems in the market today.

Examples:

Pros:

  • Open field -> Not limited to small constrained areas
  • Horizontally scalable (more robots, more production)

Cons:

  • Complex: Autonomous driving, uneven ground, changing ground
  • Batteries: Pollution, limited lifetime
  • Not much open documentation -> Lots of self development/research needs to be done

Robot swarm

Examples:

Pros:

  • “Horizontally” scalable
  • Swarm behaviour “smart” (also possible for robot cars)

Cons:

  • Complex
  • Batteries
  • Irrigation and harvesting are more complicated

CNC Robot for planting bed

Examples:

Pros:

  • More controlled conditions
  • Easier to automate extra steps like harvesting
  • No batteries needed if there‚Äôs access to an electric outlet
  • Irrigation
  • Monitoring
  • Weeding
  • Fully documented example (Farmbot)
  • All year farming if in controlled interior

Cons:

  • Limited work area (How difficult would it be to modify it to be “infinite” bed length?)
  • Not very scalable beyond production for family needs
  • Expensive for vegetable yield (maybe it is too “hight quality” for the purpose?) -> Maybe a “downgraded” version that is less precise but way cheaper could be an option.

Circular farming robot

Examples:

Pros:

  • Scalable
  • “Horizontally” with more units
  • “Vertically” if implemented the idea of moving arm through the circles.
  • Simple
  • Similar to FarmBot but for larger scales

Cons:

  • Only makes sense at larger scales (Not sure if a con)
  • Outside the city -> Transportation of products
  • More dependent on climate conditions (No winter farming)

Ideas

  • Something similar to FarmBot but vertical?
  • With soil to plant tubers or other “big” vegetables/fruits
  • Or hydroponic for greens/strawberries/Bell peppers/herbs
  • Maybe lower levels can be used to plant vegetables that hang to the ground (Like FarmBot suggests at the ends of the bed)

  • For open-filed operations there is the concept of RTK-GPS which is high precision GPS positioning (1cm). \ Tutorial: https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/what-is-gps-rtk/all This company uses that technique: https://farmdroid.dk/en/welcome/

Comments

In case of going for large scale farming: Probably we should not try to solve the agricultural problems we think are important. Although we can do our research on the main activities, to automate it, it will always be important to talk to the end-user/consumer of these new technologies, so we can design the correct solution for their problems.

Talking, understanding and engaging with the farmers and their needs is crucial for the adoption of new technologies, specially in the agricultural sector, which has not seen much change for generations.


Last update: November 28, 2021