Professor Paolo Dario, Director of The BioRobotics Institute of the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (SSSA) and Professor Alberto Sanfeliu, Director of the Instituto de Robotica i Informatica Industrial – IRI (UPC-CSIC) offered a workshop on Agrifood at this years’ European Robotics Forum in Edinburgh.
Four ECHORD++ experiments presented their work at the ERF workshop:
The cucumber harvesting experiment CATCH, pointed out the current, back harming harvesting method by hand and the difficulties in the detection of cucumbers, which are often covered by leaves of the same colour. A harvesting aid with multi-spectral cameras can produce up to 13 cucumbers per minute using robotic arms mounted on a vehicle. The next field test of the CATCh experiment is planned for July, depending on the maturity of the fruits.
Before harvesting though, the fields need to be sown. The MARS experiment (Mobile Agricultural Robot Swarms) demonstrated how this can be done by using autonomous robots, which drive across the fields, placing each individual seed precisely and saving the exact position in the cloud. Due to the small size and light weight of the robots, soil compaction is neglectible.
The GRAPE experiment (Ground Robot for vineyard Monitoring and ProtEction) allows to monitor plants and spots problems before they spread, by precisely distributing chemicals to prevent the propagation of vermin in vineyards. The creation of two- and three-dimensional maps, and the identification of candidates for the application of the pheromones is the main focus right now.
An approach to monitoring the growth of plants from above is what the SAGA experiment (Swarm Robotics for Agricultural Applications) is dealing with. The flying robot swarms localise the weed which needs to be eliminated and assess the degree of maturity. The swarm behavior of the drones is based on the flying patterns of bees.
Even though most of the experiments were still concepts, not yet fully developed technologies, the increasing automation of agriculture seems to be foreseeable. The audience showed very strong interest and did not miss the opportunity to ask questions after the presentations.
Picture from left to right: Professor Paolo Dario, Director of The BioRobotics Institute of the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (SSSA) and Professor Alberto Sanfeliu, Director of the Instituto de Robotica i Informatica Industrial – IRI (UPC-CSIC)