The very first Thorvald robot was designed and built in 2014 as part of a master’s project at NMBU (then known as UMB). The robot was designed for carrying out various tasks in the field. Through several student and research projects, the robotics group developed tools and equipment for the robot, such as a seeding machine for precision seeding and a tool for laser-based weeding. The robot was also used to collect research data for plant scientists.
Thorvald is named after the classic NMBU student, known from the song “Jeg og n’ Thorvald og Johannes” ("I, Thorvald and Johannes") which was first performed at a local student revue in 1924.
Thorvald II saw the light of day in 2016. A second version of the Thorvald platform, Thorvald II was a continuation of its predecessor, with some significant improvements. While the original Thorvald was a robot with fixed geometric dimensions, Thorvald II is module-based. The modules can be assembled more or less arbitrarily, which makes it easy to custom-build robots for different farm environments.
Thorvald II robots are used today within a variety of applications, such as weeding, data collection and harvesting. Thorvald even knows how to pick strawberries!
Out into the world
More than 30 Thorvald robots were built at the robotics lab in Ås between 2014 and 2020. Ten of these robots are still in Norway, while the other 20 were shipped to the United Kingdom, Germany, USA and Greece. Saga Robotics, a company started by the researchers who developed Thorvald, has purchased the rights to develop the platform further and to commercialise the technology that the robot is based on.
Starting small, as a master’s project at NMBU in Ås, Thorvald has become one of the most used and renowned agricultural robots in the world.