C-Dax Invests in Future Ag Tech - Autonomous Pasture Robot
(left) Mitchell Hampton, Massey University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas, Greig Shearer and Tim Sutcliffe
A prototype pasture meter robot was showcased at National Filed Days, representing the future of smart-autonomous farming
The C-Dax pasture robot, developed in conjunction with students at Massey University, has been designed to help precisely measure pasture autonomously, saving both labour costs and the over fertilisation of land.
C-Dax managing director Grieg Shearer says innovation is at the heart of what they do.
The potential commercial application of this project is vast and very exciting for the New Zealand farmer and international opportunities that go with it. Farmers in new Zealand have been reported to over fertilise up to 27 per cent, a figure which they will be keen to rectify.
"An extreme amount of work has gone into it, particularly from Massey, and it is very pleasing to see all the teams coming together and it supports our whole product offering and our whole product delivery and leads us into the next era of farming for New Zealand," Mr Shearer says.
The robot has undergone initial trialing to prove the concept and will now move into field-testing. This will be done by C-Dax with input from Mechatronics graduates Mitchell Hamptona and Tim Sutcliffe, who worked on the project in their undergraduate study. The pair have now been contracted to undertake the next round of developments for the commercial model.
Mr Sutcliffe says the work has progressed quickly over the past six months.
"We have taken the already existing and proven C-Dax pasture metre and automated it. Instead of being towed behind another vehicle you can simply map a path for the vehicle and it will do the work autonomously.
"The four-wheeled-drive robot boasts two electric powered motors that charge in dock overnight. It uses 3D cameras and GPS to navigate," Mr Sutcliffe says.
Mr Hampton is happy to see a project through from study to employment.
"When I left University, I didn't really think I could get a job doing this sort of stuff, but this is as good as it gets. The rewarding part is going out to see the client and seeing it perform in their working environment and seeing how happy they are with the work that is being done.
"It is lots of hours, lots of work, but it's really enjoyable," he says.
Future of farming
Massey University commercialisation manager Dr Russel Wilson says robots are ready to influence farming, but making current technology smarter is what will take farmers forward.
"The immediate future of smart technology in farming sees the utilisation of current technology, like the pasture meter, while utilising applications like C-Dax's Smart Control. Farming can be more accurate and environmentally friendly through these developing technologies.
"C-Dax has led the way with accurate and rapid pasture measurement and now, through this automated platform, they are continuing to bring smart solutions for the benefit of farmers to the market," Dr Wilson says.
C-Dax pasture robot