Based on Spot the robotic dog, a go-anywhere robot developed by Boston Dynamics, the RoboCrop project can drastically cut the amount of chemicals and pesticides used in agriculture as well as increasing crop yield and improve produce quality, while reducing costs.
The RoboCrop team has joined forces with the
Automation experts at the MTC's facilities in Liverpool and
The robot's on-board computer and robotic camera combines with a specially-designed crop-inspecting image processing system to scan crops for quality, ripeness, pests and diseases. The process means that chemicals would only be applied where and when required, avoiding the need to spray entire fields and orchards. Data collected by the robot can be viewed in real time.
Harry Fisher, research engineer at the MTC, said the culmination of this stage of the RoboCrop project was a proud moment.
"The MTC, by partnering with Bardsley
Founded in 1892, Bardsley
Chief executive Ben Bardsley said their objective was to produce carbon neutral food and the use of robotics will help them to achieve their aim of totally automating their orchards by 2030.
"Here at Bardsley we are passionate about working with partners such as the MTC who can help us shape the future. The global industry is going through a great change and we need to transform how we grow. Growers need to be incentivised not for what they grow, but how they grow it and the partnerships we are forming are helping us with our future," he said.
The use of autonomous robots in agriculture has previously been challenging because of terrain, plot sizes and poor implementation. The RoboCrop project, funded by Innovate
These benefits include:
- Better planning and the ability to quantify yields
- Early disease detection and the ability to target pesticides and herbicides exactly when and where required
- Reduction in costs using less chemicals and manual labour
- Reduction in chemicals being emitted into the environment thus improving soil quality
- Less use of machinery powered by fossil fuels.
MTC robotics engineers have been working with Boston Dynamics, a global leader in mobile robotics, to make use of the capabilities of Spot, which has the ability to navigate difficult terrain, climb steps and go to places which would defeat most robots. As well as agriculture the go-anywhere robot has roles to play in construction and infrastructure projects to increase efficiency and reduce safety risks in the workplace.
The MTC, from its
The robot has already been used by organisations across the world for several purposes including automating the documentation of construction progress, monitoring remote or hazardous environments, and providing situational studies in remote settings.
More information on the RoboCrop project can be found at https://ww.the-mtc.org/case-studies/robocrop-spot-the-robotic-dog/