Professor Salah Sukkarieh of University of Sydney Presents a Robot that Measures Crops
AUSTRALIA - Science is continuing to find ways to aid farmers autonomously and, in this case, robotically.
Measured farm surveillance, plant growth, and alerts for pests that grow or crawl can now be provided clearly without having to go a single step down crop rows. Professor Salah Sukkarieh of the University of Sydney, a lead researcher on robotics, has successfully tested his team’s latest project, Ladybird.
"Ladybird focuses on broad acre agriculture and is solar-electric powered,” Sukkarieh said, according to Gizmag. “It has an array of sensors for detecting vegetable growth and pest species, either plant or animal.”
Named after actual ladybirds, which eat the usual pests that are the bane of gardeners and farmers alike, this farm aid moves autonomously through crops at about 3 miles per hour. Though it can’t hop around harmlessly like its namesake, it has all-spinning wheels that the makers assure will allow the Ladybird to move through crops with minimal disruption and energy, providing maximum assistance.
"The robot was able to drive fully autonomously up and down rows and from one row to the next, while gathering sensor data,” Sukkarieh said, referring to the robot’s test in Cowra, North Whales where it was able to run three days after a single charge of its batteries.
Already awarded as Researcher of the Year in 2014 by the Australian Vegetable Industry for his work on the robot, Sukkarieh is not stopping until he can bring a robot that will not only measure and assist with farm knowledge, but help with harvesting as well.
“She also has a robotic arm for the purposes of removing weeds as well as the potential for autonomous harvesting," says Professor Sukkarieh.
While bringing more technology into an industry traditionally run by hand remains a controversial topic, Sukkarieh’s team continues to work towards raising his ultimate goal for the Ladybird from science fiction.
This little robot may yet prove to be the perfect farm hand, wanted or not.