The agriculture industry is experiencing huge technological advancements, with more and more farms turning to agricultural robots and other autonomous technologies to bring the future to one of humanity’s key industries and solve the problem of food security of an ever-growing global population.
A California-based farming innovation company, Iron Ox, has introduced a first-of-its-kind mobile support robot for automated greenhouses. Dubbed the Grover, the robot assists in the monitoring, watering, and harvesting of a wide variety of crops, from leafy greens to strawberries.
It is equipped with a differential drive system, multiple LiDAR systems, and upward and forward-facing camera systems for effective plant care and orientation in space. It is additionally equipped with a lift system to autonomously move more than 1,000 pounds (453 kg) of payload. This way, Grover will be able to scan hydroponically grown plants for inspection, and based on the results, they are taken for additional water, nutrients, or harvesting.
“Designing and building Grover was a complex multi-year project, solving for many challenges in hardware, software, autonomy, and mobility. We assembled a world-class team to achieve this,” said Sarah Osentoski, Iron Ox Senior Vice President of Engineering. “Our goal is to make Iron Ox a center for excellence in agriculture with a core competence in artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
The company is implementing this system to work at a 930-square-meter greenhouse in Gilroy, California, where the autonomous robot moves pallets of Genoese basil, and a robotic arm system lifts them up for inspection. The sensors check the nitrogen and acidity levels of the water for healthy growth.
Iron Ox grows Thai basil and strawberries and is working on coriander, parsley, and tomatoes. The company is also building a new 5-acre greenhouse in Lockhart, Texas, 30 miles south of Austin.