The agricultural industry is experiencing tremendous technological advances. The so-called "precision farming”Causes more and more farms to turn to agricultural robots and other autonomous technologies. The target? Bringing innovation to a key industry for humanity, and solving the food security problem of an ever-growing global population.
Iron Ox, a California-based agricultural innovation company, has introduced a one-of-a-kind mobile support robot for automated greenhouses. Grover, as the robot is named, assists in monitoring, irrigating and harvesting a wide variety of indoor crops, from green leafy vegetables to strawberries.
Grover is equipped with a differential drive system, LiDAR systems and cameras positioned upward and forward for effective plant care and excellent orientation in space. It is also equipped with a lifting system to autonomously move more than 450 kilos (1.000 lbs) of payload. In this way, Grover will be able to scan the plants grown indoors (in hydroponics) to inspect them and, based on the results, give them water, nutrients or collect them.
“Designing and building Grover was a complex multi-year project, which solved many challenges in terms of hardware, software, autonomy and mobility. We have assembled a world-class team to achieve this ", says Sarah Osentoski, Iron Ox Senior Vice President of Engineering.
A "roomba" for indoor agriculture
Iron Ox aims with Grover to become a center of excellence in agriculture. He wants to capitalize on his core competencies in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and he has a good reason for it.
The American company is implementing this system to work in a 930-square-foot greenhouse in Gilroy, California. In that indoor context, the autonomous robot will move pallets of Genoese basil and a system of robotic arms will lift them for inspection.
Grover's sensors, meanwhile, will monitor the water's nitrogen and acidity levels for healthy growth.
the contraption looks a bit like those robots that clean the floor, but it must have many more qualities. With Grover, Iron Ox grows Thai basil and strawberries (and prepares to work on cilantro, parsley and tomatoes too).