World News – AU – State-of-the-art agricultural robots offer UK farmers an affordable lifeline


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23. November 2020

by Alan Williams, University of Plymouth

An inexpensive robotic platform that can be fitted with almost any agricultural implement could help farmers across the UK overcome the shortage of manual labor available.

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The Robotriks Traction Unit (RTU) developed by the startup company Robotriks costs only 7. £ 000 – almost a tenth the cost of most other products on the market.

Powered by batteries that last 24 hours, it can be built in hours and made available for a range of tasks from monitoring crops to harvesting crops like cauliflower.

Robotriks was co-founded by Jake Shaw-Sutton, Senior Robotics Technician at the University of Plymouth, and Khaian Marsh, and is based near St. Austell in Cornwall.

Both grew up on farms so had an idea of ​​the challenges the sector is facing, but were also able to put the RTU through its paces in real-life situations, including testing for soil compaction.

« This is not about taking jobs away, but about filling jobs for which no employees are currently available. For some time now, fewer people have been willing to go into the fields and harvest fruit and vegetables. This is a stand-alone solution that is affordable and reliable.

« Even with the current cost of the device, which we are constantly striving to improve, it is still cheaper than hiring on a minimum wage – it can work longer hours without taking lunch breaks or sleeping in it. « Night. « 

The project was funded by Agri-Tech Cornwall – a three-year £ 10 million initiative funded by the European Regional Development Fund with funding from Cornwall Council – and an innovation grant from the Cornwall Development Company.

The RTU works either remotely or autonomously and consists of a large drive wheel, suspension, and computer system held together by galvanized tubing – which farmers can attach pretty much any device to.

The components are all mass-produced and not custom-made, which reduces costs. For example, the wheel’s brushless hub motor comes from an electric bicycle.

There are then three control options available. The first uses a remote control to drive the device to a location, mark it as a point, move to the next location and mark another point – then it continues to move between those points. The second uses an online map shown on a display with the current location and the operator can click where they want to send the device and it will be directed there. The third, which is still under development, has full autonomous control using a positioning system called Real Time Kinematic (RTK) and drones.

The device can carry several hundred kilos and is limited to a speed of up to 15 km / h, which corresponds to the walking or running pace. The device has an emergency stop button with a remote switch.

Mr. Shaw-Sutton added, « The device is fully adjustable to any height and width. Some farms may have narrow lanes, such as fruits and vegetables, or they may need to be wider to cope with high harvests. Currently, you only plug in the device to charge it. We are considering a docking station, however, as all of the power can be obtained from a single solar panel.

« While the RTU is still in the testing phase, it will be commercially available to researchers and we hope it has enough features to bring it to a wider market in the next year. « 

Robotriks is part of a cluster of exciting technology companies emerging at the University of Plymouth in conjunction with the Agri-Tech Cornwall project.

This includes Fieldwork Robotics, a spinout launched to commercialize a range of robotic harvesting technologies, currently valued at over $ 5 million. GBP lies.

Yve Metcalfe-Tyrrell, agricultural technology project manager at the university, said, « This technology is being demanded by industry and the Southwest is at the forefront to meet that demand. The university has a long track record in robotics and we are now applying it in ways that have the potential to change the future of agriculture. We have worked closely with Robotriks so they can evolve and know this is just the beginning. Along with other emerging businesses, their growth can result in a cluster of excellence that positions the Southwest as the epicenter of agricultural and technological innovation. «  »

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Agriculture, Robots, Robotics

World News – AU – Cutting-edge agricultural robots offer British farmers an inexpensive lifeline
Related titles :
Robotriks – Make Farm Robotics affordable
State-of-the-art agricultural robots offer UK farmers an inexpensive lifeline


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