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.

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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.

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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.

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Electric Dump Truck Tricycle Is No Toy

There are some utility bicycles on the market, some with electric motors to help carry a good bit of cargo. If you really need to haul more weight than a typical grocery-getter like this, you’ll want to look into a tricycle for higher capacity loads. Nothing you’ll find will match this monstrous electric tricycle hand-built by [AtomicZombie] out of junkyard parts, though. It’s a mule.

Since [AtomicZombie] sourced most of the underpinnings of this build from the junkyard, it’s based on an old motorcycle frame combined with the differential from a pickup truck, with a self-welded frame. He’s using an electric motor and a fleet of lead acid batteries for the build (since weight is no concern) and is using a gear reduction large enough to allow him to haul logs and dirt with ease (and dump them with the built in dump-truck bed), and even pull tree stumps from the ground, all without taxing the motor.

[AtomicZombie] documented every step of the build along the way, and it’s worth checking out. He uses it as a farm tractor on his homestead, and it is even equipped with a tow hitch to move various pieces of equipment around. Unlike a similar three-wheeled electric contraption from a while back, though, this one almost certainly isn’t street legal, but it’s still a blast!

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A Farmer’s Guide To Technology

One of the hardest aspects of choosing a career isn’t getting started, it’s keeping up. Whether you’re an engineer, doctor, or even landscaper, there are always new developments to keep up with if you want to stay competitive. This is especially true of farming, where farmers have to keep up with an incredible amount of “best practices” in order to continue being profitable. Keeping up with soil nutrient requirements, changing weather and climate patterns, pests and other diseases, and even equipment maintenance can be a huge hassle.

A new project at Hackerfarm led by [Akiba] is hoping to take at least one of those items off of farmers’ busy schedules, though. Their goal is to help farmers better understand the changing technological landscape and make use of technology without having to wade through all the details of every single microcontroller option that’s available, for example. Hackerfarm is actually a small farm themselves, so they have first-hand knowledge when it comes to tending a plot of land, and [Bunnie Huang] recently did a residency at the farm as well.

The project strives to be a community for helping farmers make the most out of their land, so if you run a small farm or even have a passing interest in gardening, there may be some useful tools available for you. If you have a big enough farm, you might even want to try out an advanced project like an autonomous tractor.

Autonomous Agribots For Agriculture

For his Hackaday Prize entry, [TegwynTwmffat] is going all-in on autonomous robotics. No, it’s not a self-driving car with highly advanced features such as cruise control with lane-keeping. This is an autonomous robot that’s capable of driving itself. It’s a robot built for agriculture, and relative to other autonomous robotics projects, this one is huge. It’s the size of a small tractor.

The goal [Tegwyn]’s project is to build a robot capable of roving fields of crops to weed, harvest, and possibly fertilize the land. This is a superset of the autonomous car problem: not only does [Tegwyn] need to build a chassis to roll around a field, he needs accurate sensors, some sort of connection to the Internet, and a fast processor on board. The mechanical part of this build comes in the form of a rolling chassis that’s a bit bigger than a golf cart, and electrically powered (although there is a small Honda generator strapped to the back). The electronics is where this gets really interesting, with a rather large board built to house all the sensor and wireless modules, with everything controlled by a TC275, a multicore, 32-bit microcontroller that also has the world record for solving a Rubik’s cube.

Already, [Tegwyn] has a chassis and motor set up, and is already running some code to allow for autonomous navigation. It’s not much now — just rolling down a garden path — but then again, if you’re building a robot for agriculture, it’s not that hard to roll around an open field. You can check out a video of the bot in action below.

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