The developer of a farm robot recently trialled in Cowra has been awarded "Researcher of the Year" by the Australian Vegetable Industry's peak body.
Ausveg named University of Sydney robotics expert Professor Salah Sukkarieh researcher of the year for his work on intelligent farm robots, in particular the "Ladybird", launched at Ed Fagan's onion, beetroot and spinach farm.
Professor Sukkarieh who leads a research team dedicated to the advancement of agricultural robotics says his group aims to redefine key areas of field robotics such as sensory technology, materials development and complex autonomous mechanisms.
He says the automation of on-farm processes is poised to play a decisive role in minimising input and maximising output of future agriculture, by having many of the manual tasks of farming performed by specially designed agricultural robotic devices.
"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," Professor Sukkarieh said.
"She also has a robotic arm for the purposes of removing weeds as well as the potential for autonomous harvesting."
The Ladybird was designed and built specifically for the vegetable industry with the aim of creating a ground robot with supporting intelligent software
It also has the capability to conduct autonomous farm surveillance, mapping, classification, and detection for a variety of different vegetables.
Professor Sukkarieh said her first field trip in Cowra was a success.
"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," Professor Sukkarieh said.
"Part of our research program is to find new ways to provide valuable information to growers about the state of their paddocks."
The solar-electric powered bot was charged before heading to the onion, beetroot and spinach farms of Cowra and was fully operational for three consecutive days on the farm.
Future testing of the Ladybird will included a robot manipulator arm located under the vehicle that has potential for spot sensing or spot sampling and looking towards automated harvesting.