Farmers to harvest millions with QUT's Farm Robots

Jun 04, 2013

QUT will fast-track research that will see robots planting, weeding, maintaining and harvesting crops thanks to a $3 million State Government injection of funds announced in today's budget.

Head of QUT's Farm Robotics project, Professor Gordon Wyeth, said Australian farming needed to be more globally competitive to be viable in the long term and robots would be a big part of this .

Professor Wyeth said QUT, which had world-class capabilities in robotics R&D, had already developed an 'AgBot' prototype that was being trialled with industry partner Swarm Farm near Emerald.

"This research is needed by the sector and this funding will enable it to be boosted now, when it's needed," he said.

"AgBot is a light-weight, golf buggy-sized that has been specifically designed to reduce the environmental impact of weeding.

"It can navigate around a 4000 hectare wheat farm using low-cost sensors, targeting weeds with spray while they are still very young plants.

"Currently farmers have to use their tractors to weed but because fields are naturally wet and boggy after rain it can take some time before the tractor can be brought in.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

"This means the weeds are taller and require more spray to be eradicated.

"With AgBot, weeding can happen instantly which means less spray will be used and this is better for the environment and better for the farmer's .

"We estimate that robots would save the wheat industry alone $620 million per year just in relation to weeding."

Professor Wyeth said the funding would be used to develop solar-powered farm robots fitted with technology to provide a wealth of information for the farmer.

"Robots will be able to tell farmers how ripe their crop is, for example, and this will be of great assistance during planning of the harvest," he said.

"Because information on the state of all aspects of the crop is being provided to the farmer, they will be able to send their robots to those parts of the farm that need the most attention."

Professor Wyeth said robots would enable farmers to save on labour costs which comprised 40 per cent of production costs in some horticultural sectors.

He also said up to 80 per cent of some horticultural could be destroyed by birds and that it would be possible for robotic 'scarecrows' to track and shepherd birds away from crops.

"We can easily envisage that within the next decade robots will play a vital role in the day-to-day operation of farms across Australia.

"With a cost of around $20,000 per AgBot, a farmer on a 4000 hectare wheat could realistically have up to 100 robots working their property replacing their tracor and other equipment."

QUT Vice-Chancellor Peter Coaldrake welcomed the funding which acknowledges QUT's leadership in robotics R&D and supports the university's strategy to make Queensland's future environments more sustainable, secure and resilient.

Photographs of AgBot in action can be downloaded here and a short film can be downloaded here. Raw footage is available on request.

Explore further: Robots and dinosaurs as Japan holds 'Niconico' offline gala

Related Stories

Is that a robot in your suitcase?

Nov 02, 2011

A flying robot as small as a dinner plate that can zoom to hard-to-reach places and a fleet of eco-friendly robotic farm-hands are just two of the exciting projects the robotics team at the Queensland University ...

Recommended for you

The potential for robots to perform human jobs

Apr 20, 2015

Here's a game to play over dinner. One person names a profession that they believe can't be taken over by a machine, and another person has to make a case why it's not so future-proof. We played this game ...

Developing a robotic therapist for children

Apr 20, 2015

In collaboration with other national institutions, researchers at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) are designing a new therapeutic tool for motor rehabilitation for children. In this project, an interactive ...

Automating logistics for the factory of the future

Apr 20, 2015

Mass production and packaging in factories is already highly automated these days, but the same cannot be said for logistics. Movements of raw materials and finished products still depend heavily on manual ...

Japan robot receptionist welcomes shoppers

Apr 20, 2015

She can smile, she can sing and this robot receptionist who started work in Tokyo on Monday never gets bored of welcoming customers to her upmarket shop.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.