The Australian Vegetable Industry’s peak body Ausveg has presented University of Sydney robotics expert Professor Salah Sukkarieh with the “Researcher of the Year” award for his work on intelligent farm robots, in particular the “Ladybird”.
According to the media release by the University of Sydney, the “Ladybird” was designed and built specifically for the vegetable industry with the aim of creating a ground robot with supporting intelligent software and the capability to conduct autonomous farm surveillance, mapping, classification, and detection for variety of different vegetables.
Professor Sukkarieh, who leads a research team dedicated to the advancement of agricultural robotics, said their work was aimed at redefining key areas of field robotics such as sensor technology, materials development and complex mechanisms.
He said the automation of on-farm processes was destined to play a key role in minimising input and maximising output of future agriculture through increasing efficiency and yield and decreasing the number of tasks that require manual work.
“Ladybird focuses on broad acre agriculture and is solar-electric powered. It has an array of sensors for detecting vegetable growth and pest species, either plant or animal,” said Professor Sukkarieh.
“She also has a robotic arm for the purposes of removing weeds as well as the potential for autonomous harvesting.”
Professor Sukkarieh said the robot’s first field trip recently conducted in Cowra was a success. The solar-electric powered “Ladybird” was charged before heading to the onion, beetroot and spinach farms in Cowra where it performed admirably for full three days.
“The robot was able to drive fully autonomously up and down rows and from one row to the next, while gathering sensor data. Sensors include lasers, cameras and hyper spectral cameras.”
Future testing of the Ladybird will include a robot manipulator arm located under the vehicle that has potential for spot sensing or spot sampling and looking towards automated harvesting.