A $1 million research project, helmed by the University of Sydney, has produced a solar-powered farm robot that can monitor vegetables, trace out crops and remove weeds with its robotic arms.
Named after its bug-like formation, the Ladybird is covered by an arch of solar photovoltaics and can autonomously drive itself around the farm.
Guided by lasers, cameras and hyper spectral cameras, the Ladybird’s primary task is to collect data about a farm’s vegetables growth and pest species.
A robotic arm has also been incorporated for the purposes of removing weeds and crop harvesting.
The robotic farmer recently completed a three-day test on an Australian farm that grows spinach, onions and beetroot. It was successfully able to drive autonomously up and down rows, while gathering sensor data.
Professor Sukkarieh, one of the Ladybird’s chief developers, says that the next step in development of the solar-powered robot is to add a manipulator arm underneath the machine, which would test and spot sample the fields.
The University of Sydney research team believes the automation of on-farm processes will mean significant increases in productivity for an industry that continues to face an uncertain future.