Robotic tractor to deliver precision planting

Jun 05, 2013
Robotic tractor to deliver precision planting
A robotic tractor and seeding machine developed at UNSW.

A robotic tractor and seeding machine with unprecedented planting accuracy will improve agricultural productivity for farmers and enable cropping on 20% more land, UNSW inventors say.

Broad acre farming currently requires an operator to be present in the cabin of large tractors, but this is often perceived as being unproductive, says Associate Professor Jay Katupitiya from the School of Mechanical and at UNSW.

Furthermore, large are expensive and compact the soil as they move, creating crop lines. Crop lines render roughly 20% of land on large paddocks unusable and means cropping must happen in the same direction every year, which degrades .

To solve this problem, Katupitiya has partnered with the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) to develop a lighter, more affordable agricultural machine that can accurately follow and plant seeds along a predefined path without a human operator.

"This system has the ability to lay seeds within one to two centimetres of lateral accuracy on rough agricultural terrain, which is an unprecedented level of precision for an autonomous machine," says Katupitiya.

Achieving this precision with existing technology has been challenging because the forces generated by a plough digging into soil often cause seeding implements to veer off course. However, advanced control systems and , and an optimised design, enable the UNSW to automatically correct against these deviations.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
An unmanned tractor and seeding machine developed by engineers at UNSW will improve agricultural productivity for broad acre farmers and enable cropping on upwards of 20 per cent more land.

"Our unique design and technology allows farmers to know exactly where their crop is," says Katupitiya. "It means the same machine can be used repeatedly throughout the cropping season to carry out all other subsequent tasks, such as weeding, fertilising and growth monitoring."

The UNSW-developed machine, which measures just three-metres wide, is a more affordable and lightweight option for farmers, says Katupitiya, which doesn't create crop lines.

"The flexibility of being able to access more land and plant crops in different directions has advantages for crop growth through better uptake of remnant nutrients, and a better yield," says Katupitiya.

The research team behind the invention were finalists in the 2012 Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology. They are now working with the GRDC to pursue further development and commercial production.

Explore further: Precision agriculture improves farming efficiency, has important implications on food security

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Smart farming

May 16, 2013

Navtronics, a Belgium ESA Business Incubation Centre start-up company, is tailoring intelligent guidance for agricultural machinery using advanced satnav.

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.

Cover crop seeder pulls triple duty for small farms

May 23, 2011

Farmers using a cover crop seeder developed by Penn State agricultural scientists may eventually need only a single trip across the field to accomplish what takes most farmers three passes and several pieces ...

Recommended for you

Amazon launches grocery service for Prime members

9 hours ago

Amazon is taking aim at grocery stores and discounters like Wal-Mart with a grocery service that lets its Prime loyalty club members fill up to a 45-pound box with groceries and get it shipped for a flat rate of $5.99.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.