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Blog

We had a robotic arm lying around and thought we’d have some fun in the lab with a new type of gripper.

Shown here is a UR5 arm configured to navigate to way points on a tree. Once in position, the gripper is activated, then the arm twists and pulls the apple from the tree and places the fruit in a tray.

We recently conducted a trial demonstrating the RIPPA robot working on an apple orchard in Three Bridges, Victoria, Australia. RIPPA operated autonomously up and down the apple rows and was able to change rows at the headlands by moving sideways. The trial demonstrated VIIPA autonomously and in real time detecting then targeting apples with variable rates of fluid.

The video below shows some of the experiments conducted on the trial:

Future applications of the technology include pest management, pruning, thinning, and pollinating in tree crop farming. 

In early October, ACFR conducted a series of field trials in Lembang which is located on the outskirts of the city of Bandung Indonesia with the Di-Wheel robot. The objective of the trip was to investigate how robotics can be can be deployed and utilised in a farming context in a developing country. As part of our investigation, a community of local farmers were interviewed to gain a better understanding of their requirements and their situation. We also visited a variety of engineering firms to understand the engineering capabilities within Bandung to support future field trials in that region. 

Below are some videos and photos from the trip.

Tip: Hover cursor over the pictures for the caption

 

mountainous farming area of Bandung Indonesia Chilli crops affected by disease - (Note the yellow leaves)  Di-Wheel with farmers

 

 

 

Interview with the local farmersMost of the farms we visited had very little headland. Every space was utilised to grow crops. We had to assemble our robot on the crop rowDi-Wheel about to start scanning a lettuce row via a smart phone app attached to the robotProfessor Salah Sukkarieh showing the farmers the type of data a robot can collect on their crop rows

Di-Wheel amongst the lettuce Visit to the local dairy farmA type of grass that's fed to the cows

Photo with some of the community membersDi-Wheel - lettuce row scanDi-Wheel with farmersmanual scan over some crops using the AG data logging app for referencing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the last few months, the RIPPA robot has been working on several commercial vegetable farms around Australia. Various experimental autonomous crop interaction tasks have been demonstrated including:

- autonomous row following and data collection
- autonomous real time mechanical weeding
- autonomous real time variable rate fluid dispensing using VIIPA
- autonomous soil sampling and mapping

Our work was featured in IEEE's Video Friday on November 4, 2016: http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/video-friday-rescue-quadruped-gesture-controlled-robot-arm-self-driving-van-1986

View the video below to see RIPPA in action.

The video shows the di-wheel being demonstrated at Cobbity farm (University of Sydney Campus) on a kale crop row.

 

Our initial tests of SwagBot last month have been featured in media outlets around the world.

National articles include: ABC Rural7 NewsTodaySBS and 2Ser

International articles include: New ScientistIEEE SpectrumMashableCNETThe Telegraph UK, Popular Science, Popular MechanicsEngadgetThe EnquirerQuartzGizmodoTech InsiderModern Farmer, New AtlasThe Times of India and Reuters.

Upcoming trials will focus on applying research toward autonomous farm activities including monitoring and interacting with plants and animals.

Meet SwagBot – our latest farming robot. SwagBot proved successful in its first field test. SwagBot successfully demonstrated the ability to operate in the rugged cattle station environment. Future trials will focus on applying research toward autonomous farm activities including monitoring and interacting with plants and animals.

Science Vision: 15 years from now

Mary O'Kane reflects on Trends to inform smart choices in the June edition of FOCUS. (See pages 11-13)

The Future of Agriculture
Farm Robots - These ARE the droids you're looking for.

New Scientist video featuring ACFR robots.

Salah Sukkarieh will be presenting the latest Farms of the Future work from the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, at The Science & Research Breakfast Seminar hosted by The NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer, Professor Mary O'Kane, on Wednesday 11 May 2016. Details of the invitation are attached:

Members of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry visited the ACFR technical laboratory on 14 April 2016, to hear about the latest innovations around robotics in agriculture.  The committee were briefed on the current research and how it is directly related to aiding farmers and growers, such as sensory and imaging processes to improve apple growing, the RIPPA robot which can target and destroy weeds in crops, and UAVs for identifying problem weeds in the Australian outback. This visit was part of the federal parliament public hearing on agricultural innovation. More information about the hearing can be found at http://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2016/04/12/federal-parliament-public-hearing-on-agricultural-innovation-at-.html

 

On April 6th 2016 RIPPA ran its first endurance trial and completed almost 22 hours of continuous operation using only battery and solar power. This was a major accomplishment and testament that the RIPPA design and ACFR Ag robots are focused on being a real solution to the farmer. The run began at 0530, 1 hour before sunrise and completed at 0317 the next morning, 9 hours after sunset. For the duration, RIPPA roved autonomously up and down the spinach crop rows imaging the leaves. RIPPA then waited until solar sufficiently charged the batteries and at 1000 it began where it left off and continued roving up and down the rows. The irrigation created muddy and uneven terrain at the row ends, which was no problem for RIPPA as you can see in the video. A fantastic effort from the ACFR team.

Thanks to Horticulture Innovation Australia and to Ed Fagan for hosting and supporting us at his farm.

 

 

 

 

A new three year program of high tech R&D for orchard management has begun, with the use of our Shrimp robot to acquire data from mango, avocado and macadamia orchards.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-04/mapping-australias-tree-crops/7137014

The data includes lidar, vision, thermal, hyperspectral, soil conductivity and natural gamma, demonstrating that there are many ways to view the humble tree: