Dylan showing off his giant tractor video game controller

Real Tractor Moonlights As Farming Simulator Controller

Around October, amid all the pumpkin spiced food and beverages, folks make their yearly pilgrimage to a local farm. They load themselves onto hay-filled tractor trailers and ride out in search of the perfect pumpkin to put on the front porch, and let it slowly decompose. The “closest” a video game has come to replicating this seasonal event is the annual Farming Simulator series. One modder, [Dylan], decided to add an extra level of authenticity to the Farming Simulator experience by controlling the game with an actual tractor.

The opportunity for the project presented itself thanks to a local Kiwi farmer (Kiwi as in New Zealand, not the fruit) who provided [Dylan] with access to a Case IH 310 Magnum CVT tractor. [Dylan] built a custom USB controller that mirrored the actual layout of the tractor’s control pad. Tilt sensors were wrapped around the tractor’s steering wheel and throttle to provide analog input for steering and speed control. After a number of hours tweaking the setup on site, [Dylan] live-streamed his Farming Simulator PC play session (video below) with the tractor itself left off for obvious reasons. Without tractor motor engaged there was no power steering, so he deserves a bit of extra credit for making it through multiple hours.

This certainly isn’t the first ridiculous controller project [Dylan] has taken on. He’s created a trombone controller to just to play Trombone Champ, a Nerf bow controller for Overwatch, and he even played through Hades using a literal pomegranate. You can watch more of [Dylan’s] custom controller projects on his Rudeism Twitch channel.

Continue reading “Real Tractor Moonlights As Farming Simulator Controller”

2022 Hackaday Prize: Plant Monitoring System Grows To Include LoRa

Change on industrial scales is slow, but if you’re operating your own small farm or simply working in a home garden there are some excellent ways to use water more effectively. The latest tool from [YJ] makes it possible to use much less water while still keeping plant yields high.

This is an improvement on a previous project which automates watering and lighting of a small area or single pot. This latest creation, called FLORA, includes a LoRa module for communication up to 3 kilometers, and the ESP32 on board also handles monitoring of soil moisture, humidity and other sensors. It also includes a pump driver for managing irrigation systems so that smart decisions can be made about when to water. Using this device, the water usage when testing was reduced by around 30% compared to a typical timed irrigation system.

Using a smart system like this is effective for basically any supply of water, but for those who get water from something like an off-grid rainwater system or an expensive water utility, the gains are immediate. If you aren’t already growing your own food to take advantage of tools like this, take a look at this primer to get you started.

DIY Chicken McMansion Is A Real Hen House

You might recognize [Robert Dunn] from his YouTube channel Aging Wheels, where he hacks on all sorts of automotive delights. On his other channel, Under Dunn, [Robert] tends to focus on building things. In this case, his nine chickens grew a bit, and he needs a new coop for his twenty chickens, three turkeys, and two geese. The build, the video, and the outcome are all typical of [Robert Dunn]’s videos- that is to say fun, informative, and easy to follow along with.

Rather than building on to his existing coop that was designed for less than a dozen chickens, [Robert] decided to start from scratch. Using CAD to overcomplicate matters at every possible step, the build flies together with impressive speed- but never quite takes off until the very last moment.

The video highlights all the things we want to see: The CNC’ing, the fails (including one very large fall-flat-on-your-face moment), the recovery from the fails, routed butt joints, and screen door handles. It’s also got all of the overengineered goodness we’ve all come to love. You’ll also enjoy his solution to moving, then fixing, then finally installing the coop.

If you enjoyed this, and watching people fail, check out [Robert]’s Fail Of The Week that we featured a while back.

Continue reading “DIY Chicken McMansion Is A Real Hen House”

Human-Following Utility Trailer

[Théo Gautier] thought that a human-following utility trailer would be helpful for people working on farms. He didn’t just think about it, however, he designed and built it as a final project at the Agrilab FabAcademy at the University UniLasalle Polytechnique in northern France. He took the idea from concept to fruition in six weeks.

His build log documents the project very well, and takes you through his design choices and their implementation. The brains of the cart are a SAMD21E board that he made himself, and its sensory perception of the world is provided by HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensors and a PixyCam 2. Locomotion is provided by four each 100W DC motor / gearbox assemblies. He’s put a lot of effort into the construction process and posted a lot of photos of the intermediate steps. One piece of advice that caught our eye was to measure the diagonals of your frame repeatedly when welding it together — things can and do shift around. If you don’t, you may have to rectify the mistake like [Théo] did, with a big hammer.

Continue reading “Human-Following Utility Trailer”

Automate The Farm With Acorn

Farming has been undergoing quite a revolution in the past few years. Since World War 2, most industrial farming has relied on synthetic fertilizer, large machinery, and huge farms with single crops. Now there is a growing number of successful farmers bucking that trend with small farms growing many crops and using natural methods of fertilizing that don’t require as much industry. Of course even with these types of farms, some machinery is still nice to have, so this farmer has been developing an open-source automated farming robot.

The robot is known as Acorn and is the project of [taylor] who farms in California. The platform is powered by an 800 watt solar array feeding a set of supercapacitors for energy storage. It uses mountain bike wheels and tires fitted with electric hub motors which give it four wheel drive and four wheel steering to make it capable even in muddy fields. The farming tools, as well as any computer vision and automation hardware, can be housed under the solar panels. This prototype uses an Nvidia Jetson module to handle the heavy lifting of machine learning and automation, with a Raspberry Pi to handle the basic operation of the robot, and can navigate itself around a farm using highly precise GPS units.

While the robot’s development is currently ongoing, [taylor] hopes to develop a community that will build their own versions and help develop the platform. Farming improvements like this are certainly needed as more and more farmers shift from unsustainable monocultures to more ecologically friendly methods involving multiple simultaneous crops, carbon sequestration, and off-season cover crops. It’s certainly a long row to hoe but plenty of people are already plowing ahead.

Continue reading “Automate The Farm With Acorn”

ArrBot Is A Fast Way To Get Out Standing In A New Field Of Robotics

[Junglist] correctly points out that agricultural robotics is fast on its way to being the next big thing (TM) and presents his easy to build ArrBot platform so others can get hacking fast. 

The frame is built out of the same brackets and aluminum tubing used to add handrails to stairwells on buildings. Not only is this a fast way to do it, the set-up can be guaranteed to be sturdy since hand rails are often literally standing between life and death. The high ground clearance allows for all sorts of sensors and devices to be mounted while still being able to clear the plants below. 

For motion hub motors driven by an ODrive were re-purposed for the task. He explored turning the wheels as well, but it seems like  differential steer and casters works well for this set-up. ROS on an Nividia Jetson runs the show and deals with the various sensors such as a stereoscopic camera and IMU.

We’re excited to see what hacks people come up with as research in this area grows. (Tee-hee!) For example, [Junglist] wants to see the effect of simply running a UV light over a field rather than spraying with pesticides or fungicides would have.

Human-Powered Henhouse Keeps Chickens On The Job

While it’s not exactly in the same vein as other projects around here, like restoring vintage video game systems or tricking an ESP32 to output VGA, keeping chickens can also be a rewarding hobby. They make decent pets and can also provide you with eggs. You can also keep them on a surprisingly small amount of land, but if you have a larger farm you can use them to help condition the soil all over your property. For that you’ll need a mobile henhouse, and as [AtomicZombie] shows, they don’t all have to be towed by a tractor.

This henhouse is human-powered, meaning any regular human can lift it up and scoot it around to different areas without help from heavy equipment. It uses a set of bicycle wheels which rotate around to lift up the frame of the house. A steering wheel in the back allows it to be guided anywhere and then set down. It also has anti-digging protection, which is a must-have for any henhouse to keep the foxes out.

We like this one for its simplicity and ease-of-use. Not needing a tractor on a small farm can be a major cost savings, but if you really need one, [AtomicZombie] also designed a robust all-electric tractor-like device that we featured a little while back.

Continue reading “Human-Powered Henhouse Keeps Chickens On The Job”