Robotic farming means more corn for everyone

You know we’re all going to starve, right? If the world’s population keeps growing exponentially and food production grows linearly, we’re eventually going to find out what Soylent Green is made of. This is where [David Dorhout]‘s Prospero robot farmer comes in. [David] has come up with the idea of using small autonomous robots to plant, tend and harvest fields. Right now, he’s working on stage 1: planting seeds.

A swarm of six-legged Prospero robots are dispatched to a field. There, each member of the swarm plants seeds one at a time. The robots keep in contact with each other over a wireless connection to ensure the optimal planting pattern for an entire field.

The Prospero prototype is based on the Parallax Propeller with a Ping ultrasonic sensor used to avoid obstacles. Each hexapod is equipped with a bunch of seeds, a small auger, and a supply of fertilizer for the future corn plant. The next step in the plan is to build a ‘tending’ robot that will monitor and apply nutrients if needed. Check out the Prospero video after the break.

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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.

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Robotic sheep shearing

This contraption was made in the late 80’s, expressly for shearing sheep. For some reason, it never really took off. We’re guessing because it takes forever and still requires a person to wrangle the sheep on to the holding rack. Having that person just shear the sheep themselves might be much quicker. We think they need to refine it a bit. It should be fast, and not require a person to load it. Maybe something like a modified version of this.

Power suit for Japanese farmers

power_suit

Researchers at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology have been demoing a new power suit. It’s intended to be used by people hand harvesting in the farm industry. The 55 pound device supports the worker’s joints as they squat and reach. Within three years, they hope to have the cost within $10K. We’ve seen quite a few power suit devices this year, but research has been going on for many years, as you can see in our power suit roundup.

[Thanks Lane]

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