Robocrop project improves crop yields and cuts costs

An autonomous robot promises to ‘revolutionize’ agriculture by inspecting crops for ripeness and quality while also detecting diseases and pests.

This is the claim of robotics experts at the Manufacturing Technology Center who have developed an autonomous robot that combines automation, artificial intelligence and advanced vision systems.

Based on Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot dog, the RoboCrop Project can reportedly reduce the amount of chemicals and pesticides used in agriculture, increase crop yield, improve product quality and reduce costs. The RoboCrop team has teamed up with Kent fruit grower Bardsley England to prove the commercial, environmental and health benefits of using advanced robotics in the agricultural sector.

Automation experts at the MTC facilities in Liverpool and Coventry developed a custom load for Spot to enable detailed inspection of Bardsley’s fruit crops.

The robot’s on-board computer and robotic camera combine with a specially designed crop inspection image processing system to scan crops for quality, maturity, pests and diseases. The process means that chemicals are only applied where and when needed, eliminating the need to spray entire fields and orchards. Data collected by the robot can be viewed in real time.

In a statement, Harry Fisher, research engineer at the MTC, said: “The MTC, by working with Bardsley England and Boston Dynamics, has been able to demonstrate how the use of advanced robotics can create a more sustainable and productive UK agricultural sector. Importantly, the inspection payload developed especially for this project can be easily adapted to other industries.”

The use of autonomous robots in agriculture has previously been challenging due to terrain, plot sizes and poor implementation.

MTC engineers, Harry Fisher (left) and Joel Kellam with RoboCrop (Image: MTC)

The RoboCrop project, funded by Innovate UK, has shown that combining artificial intelligence and advanced vision systems with agile robots can bring enormous benefits, such as better planning and the ability to quantify yields, early disease detection and the ability to use pesticides. and herbicides right on time. and where necessary, and a reduction in costs with fewer chemicals and manual labor.

Other benefits include a reduction in the release of chemicals into the environment, an improvement in soil quality; and less use of machines powered by fossil fuels.

MTC’s robotics engineers have teamed up with Boston Dynamics to leverage Spot’s capabilities, which allow them to navigate difficult terrain, climb stairs and go places inaccessible to most robots. In addition to agriculture, the robot also plays a role in construction and infrastructure projects.

Abhishek Maheswari
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