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First solar-powered farmbot unveiled in Australia

PTI | Last Updated: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - 18:47

Melbourne: A new solar-powered robot has been designed for farms to collect data on pests and plant disease, pick weeds, and even harvest crops in future.

The Ladybird is laser-guided and self-driving robot that uses sensors and hyper-spectral cameras to collect data about pests and crop conditions as it moves around, which it automatically interprets and delivers to the farmer.

The Ladybird was designed and built specifically for the vegetable industry with the aim of creating a ground robot with supporting intelligent software and the capability to conduct autonomous farm surveillance, mapping, classification, and detection for a variety of different vegetables.

University of Sydney robotics expert Professor Salah Sukkarieh said his group aims to redefine key areas of field robotics such as sensory technology, materials development and complex autonomous mechanisms.
He said the automation of on-farm processes is poised to play a decisive role in minimising input and maximising output of future agriculture.

Automation can help to increase efficiency and yield, by having many of the manual tasks of farming performed by specially designed agricultural robotic devices.

"Ladybird focuses on broad acre agriculture and is solar-electric powered. It has an array of sensors for detecting vegetable growth and pest species, either plant or animal.

"She also has a robotic arm for the purposes of removing weeds as well as the potential for autonomous harvesting," said Sukkarieh.
According to Sukkarieh, the Ladybird `s first field trip recently conducted in Cowra was a success.
"The robot was able to drive fully autonomously up and down rows and from one row to the next, while gathering sensor data. Sensors include lasers, cameras and hyper spectral cameras," said Sukkarieh.

The solar-electric powered bot was charged before heading to the onion, beetroot and spinach farms of Cowra and was fully operational for three consecutive days on the farm.

Future testing of the Ladybird will include a robot manipulator arm located under the vehicle that has potential for spot sensing or spot sampling and looking towards automated harvesting.

First Published: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - 18:47

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