Agricultural robotics is one of the main research areas of the robotics group at NMBU. The agricultural robotics team has developed its own robotic platform, Thorvald. The team also develops tools and agricultural implements that may be used in all stages of operation in the field, from autonomous precision seeding to weeding and harvesting.
Food production and agriculture are facing enormous challenges over the next few years with a growing population and a more challenging climate. The world's population is expected to grow rapidly and an estimated 70% increase in food production is required in just a few decades. Climate changes will not only give global warming, but also more intensive rainfall. This is a huge challenge for conventional agricultural machines. Large and heavy machinery will damage wet soil and will also get stuck in muddy fields.
To overcome these challenges, the agricultural robotics team at NMBU develops innovative and intelligent technological solutions for a more efficient and sustainable agriculture.
The agricultural robot Thorvald
The first prototypes of the Thorvald robot were developed by researchers and students in the agricultural robotics lab at NMBU. Thorvald is a low-cost and light-weight agricultural robot. It is battery driven and has four powerful electric motors which makes it capable of performing work in the field. Four-wheel steering makes it extremely mobile. The frame is flexible, which guarantees that all four wheels are in contact with the ground at all times for optimal traction. The robot can operate up to 10 hours without charging or changing its batteries.
Thorvald is used in several of the research projects that the robotics group participates in, and is currently undergoing further development at Saga Robotics, a private company established by researchers at NMBU.
Intelligent tools for autonomous operation
One of the main challenges of robotic farming is to develop novel tools that can be used on autonomous robots with considerably less power than a tractor. The agricultural robotics team at NMBU has developed and tested several concepts for autonomous operation that require far less energy than conventional systems. These concepts are used in operations such as:
- Seeding: Tools for optimal seed placement
- Plant health: Disease treatment without the use of chemicals
- Weeding: Intelligent and non-chemical weeding
- Monitoring: Data gathering in the field