The Digital Farmhand comprises of a small mobile platform that can be remotely or autonomously controlled. On the mobile platform exists a smartphone, sensors, and computing. The robot also has a three-point-hitch system which allows the use of farming implements to do activities such as precision seeding, spraying and weeding; and, through its ability to monitoring individual plants, the data it produces has the potential to support better on-farm decision making helping growers increase yield and productivity, reduce input costs, and maximise nutrition security.
As part of the Launch Food program, it was concluded that conducting a pilot study in the Pacific Islands would be ideal because of the need for improving food security in the Pacific Islands and because of the strong alliances between Australia and the Pacific Island community. In this video, we travelled to Samoa to trial the robot on three different farms and conducted a workshop with local farmers to get feedback on how a system like Digital Farmhand could be used in the region.
In addition to the trial our team assessed:
- The current level of digital technology readiness and understanding amongst farmers centred around agriculture;
- The ICT infrastructure currently in place to support platforms like Digital Farmhand; and
- Economic analysis of how current farming practices and how technology could help reduce input costs and increase productivity and yield.
Digital Farmhand and Swagbot were trialled on an orchard (Apple, Nectarine, Peach) near Bilpin NSW. The team wanted to see how Digital Farmhand and Swagbot would perform in an orchard setting.
Below is a short video montage of the trial.
Digital Farmhand is a modular low-cost platform designed to assist smallholder farmers in improving their productivity, yields and ultimately provide a more reliable income amidst changing markets and climates. In its simplest form it is a small electric tractor-like vehicle that can tow a variety of implements such as seeders, weeders and bed preparation tools. The Digital Farmhand can also use accessible smartphone technologies along with AI to provide crop analytics such as yield estimation, pest and disease identification, as well as precision automation of many labour intensive farm tasks, e.g. weeding, spraying and seeding The ACFR team conducted trials on 3 different farms in Fiji with the Digital Farmhand robotic platform in June 2018.
Below is a short video of the trial and an article from the ABC about the project