There was once a time when farmers had to work the land manually – then the task of farming was a long and tedious one lasting from dawn till dusk. Luckily many scientific advances have touched the field of agriculture. Agriculture machinery has witnessed innovative advancements since the day of hand tools to modern GPS control and computer controlled self – steering programs for modern tractors where little human intervention is needed.
However, computer controlled machinery or robotics has yet to come to the world of onion planting. Onion planting is tedious, labor intensive, and increasingly expensive. Shortages in labor and higher cost necessitate the need for alternative methods to manual planting or even today’s most automated method of pulling a trailer behind a tractor with seated workers planting the seedlings. The solution is a robotic planter named OPAR.
OPAR meets the farmer’s needs in these key areas:
1) Labor shortages- dramatically reduces labor needed in planting process
2) Productivity- 1 robot’s daily output equals 2.5 workers according to test runs and simulations
3) Consistency- consistent plant location and placement needed for harvesting automation
OPAR is designed to be used on a planting bed 5” high and 54” wide. The plants will be placed in 5 rows evenly spaced across the beds width with 5” between each plant in the row. The robot consists of 8 sections or modules with bi-directional communications to control and complete the process.
1) Control- a Raspberry PI monitors and controls all modules
2) Power- 3 batteries for motors, servos and micros & solar panels for battery charging
3) Navigation- ultrasonic sensors and contact switches to maintain bed centering during planting
4) Punch- uses linear actuators to lower 5 rods to punch planting holes
5) Pick & Plant- 5 arms with 4 DOF to place and hold plants for covering
6) Storage- containers for holding seedlings for planting
7) Cover- 5 sets of arms that close to push soil around the seedlings to complete the planting process
8) Drive- drive motors and controllers for movement
OPAR has a target price of $10,000 and is designed as a modular robot system. In the near future
additional modules will be designed that allow for task, such as weeding, fertilizing, and harvesting with the addition of GPS and vision capabilities.
The advantages to the OPAR solution are manifold. Apart from being a great labor saving device, it increases productivity and efficiency in the field. It offers a tremendous opportunity for the farmer to increase production while reducing cost and at the same time solves the labor shortage problem.
pic 1- pic & plant arms
pic 2- punch section & cover section