French start-up Meropy has developed an agricultural robot that autonomously inspects plants from both above and below, saving farmers time and money.
The challenge: A lot can go wrong between growing and harvesting – pests can invade a field, diseases can spread and weeds can multiply and steal resources that plants need to thrive.
Regular crop monitoring can help farmers catch these issues before they result in significant losses, but manually checking every crop on a large farm can be time-consuming and labor-intensive.
Robots navigating fields autonomously can relieve farmers of this duty, but their tires and treads can damage crops. Satellites and drones don’t take that risk, but since they can only see plants from above, they can miss problems hidden beneath their leaves.
what’s new Meropy’s SentiV farming robot was developed to solve these problems.
At just 33 pounds, the bot is lightweight and instead of rolling on tires, it navigates fields on rimless spoked wheels. Because these make much less contact with the ground than the wheels traditionally used by farming robots, damage to crops is minimized.
Meropy’s SentiV agricultural robot uses rimless wheels to navigate fields. Photo credit: Meropy
To use SentiV, farmers first set the boundaries of their field in the robot’s software platform. It will then roll over the entire area autonomously using GPS – according to Meropy, the bot can cover around 50 acres per day.
On the go, SentiV uses two cameras to record crops from above and below. Data from the cameras is analyzed by AI algorithms trained to detect threats, monitor growth and detect signs that the plant needs more or less water and nutrients.
To ensure farmers can inspect different types of crops, Meropy designed the agricultural robot in a modular way – its width is adjustable and its height can be changed by swapping out different sized wheels.
Looking ahead: SentiV is still a prototype, and it’s not clear when Meropy will be ready to sell a commercial version of the farming robot, or what it might cost.
However, the initial cost of the robot could potentially be offset by savings on fertilizers or pesticides. The bot’s data could tell farmers exactly where the chemicals are needed, keeping their use to a minimum, which would also be a boon for the environment.
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