What happens when you combine a Roomba and a combine harvester? You get the Ladybird. Developed by researchers at the University of Sydney, the robot is designed to make lives easier for vegetable farmers.
The aptly named robot, which looks rather similar to its namesake insect, is a showcase combination of farming and technical expertise. It boasts the ability to autonomously map a field using GPS and an innovative laser guidance system, and then relay this data back in real-time to a base station.
Ladybug is a showcase combination of farming and technical expertise.
Once this is underway, the robot also has the ability to identify several kinds of vegetable crops and add this information to its mapping. As a part of this capability the Ladybug also has the ability to maintain the crops once it has identified them. It comes equipped with a robotic arm which it can utilize to identify and remove feeds, and also at some stage also harvest crops.
Powering this whole system is a large solar panel array which covers the ‘back’ of the robot. It is this which gives it it’s characteristic ladybird shape. By using solar power, the advantage is that the bot can operate autonomously for longer periods of time than what would be possible were it using batteries or other fuel sources.
The lead researcher behind Ladybug, Professor Salah Sukkarieh believes that this robot represents a new way to monitor a farm environment. He believes that roboting farming technology has the potential to play a significant role in reducing inputs on a farm while also maximising the crop output.
Clearly the Ladybug has a large amount a promise, especially as a demonstrator of what can be done with robotic technology on a farm. However, for this robot really start to change the way we farm, it will need to be made much more affordable, so as to compete with manual human labour.
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