It is not often that sylvan agriculture and scientific robots are mentioned in the very same sentence. Well, some resourceful researchers at the University of Sydney have made a rare achievement that allows this literary antithesis – by virtue of the so-named LadyBird, a solar powered robotic mechanism that can aid in the process of growing crops.
The result of a $1 million project, the ‘robotic farmer’ sort of resembles a mechanized ladybug (hence the name), with its array of curved solar panels and integrated sensors. But what exactly is the function of a robot in the outdoor expansive fields of crops and vegetables? Well, according to the scientists involved, the LadyBird is primarily designed to collect important data from across the farm it is traversing.
This collected info entails various farming factors like the rate of growth of vegetables and the intrusion cases of pests and weeds. In essence, the built-in sensors (that incorporate hyper spectral cameras) monitor the farming field, which in turn can lead to the possibility to yielding better cultivating results. This scope of functionality becomes more crucial in drought-prone and hot, arid regions – like Australia, a country which has been going through some baleful climatic conditions in the recent times.
But interestingly, the purpose of the advanced LadyBird is not just limited to passive monitoring and appraising of farm-oriented data. The autonomous machine is entirely laser-guided and has self-driving ability, while it boasts of a robotic arm that can pull out the weeds from a designated area. Moreover, the researchers are also looking forth to a fascinating future where the robot farmer will have the capacity to even harvest the produce!
As Professor Salah Sukkarieh, one of the chief researchers in the project, makes it clear –
Ladybird focuses on broad acre agriculture and is solar-electric powered. It has an array of sensors for detecting vegetable growth and pest species, either plant or animal. She also has a robotic arm for the purposes of removing weeds as well as the potential for autonomous harvesting.
So, at the end of the day, the LadyBird robotic farmer is all about an improved ambit for existing agricultural practices. But the question remains – is an autonomous robot the answer to the usually ‘low cost’ tendencies of various agricultural communities, especially in the developing nations?