Farmbot

Prospero is the working prototype of an Autonomous Micro Planter, which is intended to be unleashed as a swarm. Using a Parallax propeller mounted on a Lynxmotion AH3-R hexapod body, though we have a ton of different ideas on hexapods if you find the price of the body to be out of budget.

Inputs to the machine are pretty standard robot fare like infrared, and ultrasound. Outputs on the other hand are more interesting, for example spray paint, retractable drill, seed dispenser, and of course a stack of servos.

Arming a robot with a drill and a can of spray paint sounds like a recipe for hours of fun, but it does have a job to do. Walking around, the bot stops and checks the ground below it, and if the ground is ok to seed, a small auger drill flips down from the robot’s belly. After drilling a hole, a seed is dropped, then covered over with a scoop on the back of the drill. Finally the seeded the spot is marked with white paint and the robot moves on.

Though its a prototype and not fully formed yet, its an interesting thing to see, so join us after the break for a video.

Comments

  1. bunedoggle says:

    Cool idea. I would think that there would be a huge seed hopper somewhere though. I suppose it can just return and get more seeds as it runs out. Or maybe you could have a “mother ship” robot with a seed refilling station following the swarm.

    I, for one, welcome out new farming overlords. As long as they’re not deployed by Monsanto that is.

  2. Oakleyguy says:

    Think of the terraforming possibilities.

  3. RP says:

    I’m suddenly reminded of the Drone robots Huey Louie and Dewey from “Silent Running”.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067756/

  4. MikeJ says:

    As I erroneously posted on another project, this instantly reminded me of a bad Tom Selleck B-movie from 1984 called ‘Runaway’.

    Good times.

  5. Dre says:

    Looks cool, although it could use of some GPS. Wouldn’t want to lose one of those buggers.

  6. Dre says:

    Ugh, I forgot to put in the word ” make”. “Looks cool, although it could make use of some GPS. Wouldn’t want to lose one of those buggers.”

  7. Oren Beck says:

    Seeding ‘bots go back a long way. Someone told me there’s a dubious but not totally unthinkable oral variant of the Golem stories where one of that kind was a planter of seeds that may not have been to smart to plant. With dark implications of somehow having even been an intentional bad thing. There’s several things one would not want planted near one’s city that could be low tech biowar. Larkspur as one example. Hacking by seed’s an old concept. Still- this is a neat Hack that might get mundane uses for landscaping.

  8. Karl says:

    Wider feet wound be better – [like snow shoes?] -nothing like a wet field to get this bogged down. It’s also spraying paint off center and if it looks only where it wants to drill, it/they could plant multiple seeds in the same hole. Better to look if there is any seed planted in the area of its undercarrage. Makes me think of a parasitic wasp laying eggs in it’s victems.

  9. MS3FGX says:

    Wow, Silent Running was the first thing I thought of too.

    This is incredible work, but kinda creepy too.

  10. Oren Beck says:

    Typo- should have been:

    seeds than may have been not too smart to plant.

    Also forgot- That Golem may have been a whole lot “smarter” than some humans after all if the grim aspect were true. Hacking perceptions is often part of the greater game.

  11. moo says:

    Wow – the first thing that I thought of when I read this was the mosquito-killing laser.

    Compared to conventional farm equipment (i.e. tractor and seeder or manpower) this is incredibly expensive, inefficient, and energy-intensive.

    What problem does it possibly solve?

  12. John says:

    Hacks don’t have to solve problems – they can just be for fun.
    However, since you ask, you might be able to use this kind of robot to produce plant art. You could seed an entire field with flower pixels to produce any image you liked. That would require accurate location data, but that should be possible to add.

  13. swighton says:

    Very awesome, I wonder how a swarm of those could ever be cost effective though.

  14. JC says:

    @moo – yeah, you’re probably right, but I don’t think that’s really the point. Although everything is incredibly expensive when it starts out.

    @John – interesting idea about the plant art.

  15. mi6_x3m says:

    This project is a huge bag of WIN. Exactly the thing I’d call a cool project!

  16. martletandco says:

    I think this is a great idea but aimed at the wrong area.

    I agree with @moo; on flat paddocks it can’t compete with a tractor.

    Where this would really shine is on hilly terrain, planting to stop land slides, etc.

    Another might be planting in a pattern to spell words or draw pictures.

  17. Gravis says:

    An army of these would be great for finding land mines… or crushing mankind. I see a lot more applications for this bot design than just seeding.

  18. Cynyr says:

    I think these would be better than a tractor. Slap a solar panel on top, add in gps and some wireless communication, and these could plant all on their own with no need for power. Also with a camera and some more smarts they could even weed, and provide some spot pest control.

  19. BadCoding says:

    As one use uses a tractor on the daily basis, I’ll take a dozen. When you seed drilling is an option on the tractor, but this appears to be better. Then nice part about this is that it can vary on seeds. If it can be expanded to include seedlings (small trees about 1-3″ tall) I know a lot of foresters who would want some.

    For those saying tractor, have you ever seeded 15,000+ acres? Mundane is a kind word. Tractors still need a person.. for now.

  20. Paul says:

    I could see a few thousand of these working wonders for a reforestation project. Trees look best when they’re not planted in rows. Need to be all terrain though.

  21. invader21 says:

    Have to agree with oakleyguy. This is perfect for teraforming mars and the like (mars seems to be the best bet for teraforming). Hope to see this guy working at NASA later in life. With him at the helm we might live on other planets in our lifetime after all.

  22. strider_mt2k says:

    “Take care of the forest…”

    (sniff)

    Good movie.

    Awesome bot.

  23. Jamieson says:

    Less herbicides, more autonomous weeding bots!

  24. Sigg3 says:

    They would make for nice pets, if you took away the bottom drill!

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