SOLAR-POWERED PRECISION FARMING ROVER
Acorn is a Precision Farming Rover (PFR) developed to advance modern farming practices. Acorn is solar-powered, light-weight, and open source. Precision Farming Rovers, like Acorn, can be used to fight climate change, help to grow healthier food, and protect farmworkers and our communities from overuse of harmful chemicals.
Several versions have been built and tested, and the team here at Twisted Fields is close to making full Acorn kits available for early adopters. We believe this is the best strategy for making this technology functional, low cost, and accessible to all. This will create an open source community that will rapidly adapt, improve, and develop tools that can help make sustainable agriculture a reality around the world even for small and medium sized farms.
Our solar-powered farming robot works when the sun is shining, relieving the tractor driver with self-driving software and uses photons instead of diesel fuel, therefore resulting in a reduction of pollution and contamination of our lands and waterways. To be able to run on solar power, using existing tractors won't work. Acorn uses a lightweight frame and mountain bike parts instead of cast iron and steel. Keeping it light-weight means reduced soil compaction, and solar never needs refueling. Interestingly our motors move by twisted electromagnetic fields, coincidence? You decide.
The automated Precision Farming Rover will help commercial farmers establish sustainable food production systems and mitigate conventional farming’s damaging effects to the ecosystem by providing remote and continuous opportunity for crop inspection and remediation, as well as planting, seeding, weeding, and harvesting. At scale, the PFR will increase yield for commercial farmers, increase access to high-quality produce for the consumer at home and abroad, and reduce reliance on farming practices that harm the environment and the health of those working the land.
We are sharing our designs and code in the hope that others will join us, tinker and experiment, and help find the best ways to automate a farm with this new kind of technology.
Goatbot is an exploration in GPS guided herd movement. The prototype collar features a raspberry pi, GPS module, and inertial measurement unit to determine where the animal is and which way it is headed. Audio and vibration cues help the farmer guide the herd in the desired direction using a Google Maps interface on their mobile device. This technology eliminates the need for costly infrastructure, such as fencing, and valuable time spent manually moving the herd. The convenience and economic feasibility of Goatbot enables farmers to implement sustainable stewardship practices such as rotational grazing, ultimately helping to reduce soil erosion, disease susceptibility, feed costs, and allowing for deeper plant root systems to restore nutrients back into the soil.
STACKABLE FARMING FOR SUSTAINABLE FOOD PRODUCTION
Lack of fresh, year-round produce contributes to illness for the 13.5 million Americans who in live "food deserts," those mostly urban areas where little but fast and processed food is available. Growing urban produce is possible using controlled environment agriculture (CEA), including greenhouses and artificially lighted "plant factories," but has been difficult to do affordably and flexibly. Building and labor costs are a major problem for greenhouses, and using conventional automation has required large, hard-to-modify mechanical setups. The project will design and demonstrate a complete CEA system that uses stack-able farming techniques and robots in place of the large fixed infrastructure conveyor systems or human labor to reduce both building and operational costs. The robots and the software to orchestrate them are proven in the material handling industry and need only be adapted to this innovative approach to farming. This project addresses five USDA National Challenge Areas: food security, climate variability and change, childhood obesity, food safety, and water.
Over time, the CEA system will also help America promote agricultural production and biotechnology exports by enabling the easy shipment of self-sustaining food production systems. The grow box approach will benefit the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture, in large part by removing much of weather-related uncertainty and other risks currently inherent in agriculture. The grow boxes will enable rapid response to market demand (such as direct access to produce at farmers' markets), improving the overall economics of agriculture. This solution improves access to high-quality fruit, vegetable, and proteins at affordable prices in urban environments and food deserts. If this approach to farming year-round is successful in what otherwise would have been unfavorable climates for off-season agriculture, the technology will create opportunity for policy changes. Candidate policies to be considered might include a greater emphasis on local food production, as well as reducing the costs of energy generation to support food growth.