It seems that robots are taking over the agricultural industry, such as the RIPPA robot designed by the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney.
The RIPPA™ or 'Robot for Intelligent Perception and Precision Application' is a robot designed specifically for the vegetable growing industry. The design is based on a previous robotic design from the university the Ladybird, which you can read about here.
The design lays the claim of being more lightweight, rugged and easier operated than the Ladybird robot and was designed in late 2015.
The Design and what it can do-
The RIPPA is mounted with a VIPPA, which is a Variable Injection Intelligent Precision Applicator.
This means the robot can be used for the autonomous spot spraying of weeds at high speeds. This is done by using a directed micro-dose of liquid. The robot can also follow or change rows in a vegetable field, while it also can detect produce in real-time.
The RIPPA robot also has the ability to collect data using sensors that can map an area of a crop and detect weeds as well as highlight foreign objects. This is done through a number of sensing modalities such as thermal imaging, 3D structural sensing and hyper and multi-spectral imaging, among others.
The device can also use this data to estimate yield and fertilise crops. It has a collection of sensors and sophisticated algorithms that can detect weeds growing among crops, while it can also detect foreign objects such as glass, stone or even metal.
The team behind the robot, say that the RIPPA will not only save time, but also money for farmers through the robots pinpoint accuracy.
List of sensing modalities on the RIPPA:
- 3D structural sensing.
- Thermal imagery.
- Visible spectrum imaging using Red, Green and Blue (RGB) cameras
- Hyper- and multi-spectral imaging.
- Global positioning system/inertial navigation system (GPS/INS).
- Ranging (Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR)).
“The technology can be used to automatically apply the correct dose of fluid required anywhere on the farm at high speed," said Mark Calleija, systems engineering and operations specialist who helped build and design the RIPPA.
“It will enable farmers to capitalise by minimising application input costs and improving information quality for better high-level decision making...This type of new technology will assist growers in taking their farms into the future.”, he continued.
Trials of the robot took place in mid-2016 to great success. The team of researchers hope to add a system to the robot, which will allow it to remove weeds and foreign objects from fields.
The robot is currently still in the testing phase, though the team of researchers behind the bot hope it will be available for sale to farmers within the next couple of years. One thing is certain, however, the RIPPA will change the face of vegetable farming over the coming years.