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Date: 22 May 2013 

Farming smarter with AgBots

A golf cart sized robot that can autonomously navigate its way through a field will soon take the work out of weeding for Queensland farmers.

The AgBot, a light-weight, driverless buggy, can navigate around a 4000 hectare wheat farm using low-cost sensors, eradicating small weeds and causing minimal damage to soil.

The world-first project, headed up by the QUT Robotics lab, in collaboration with Swarm Farm in Emerald and the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, aims to revolutionise broad acre farming by creating a new class of small, intelligent, cooperative, autonomous robots to increase farming production.

"The farmer we are working with currently uses a single large heavy chemical weed sprayer that is unable to traverse the fields immediately after rain when the weeds are small," Chief Investigator Professor Gordon Wyeth said.

"Eradicating weeds when they are small requires far less chemicals, leading to significant savings both financially and environmentally.

"Our research will combine cheap cameras and other sensors with new navigation and perception algorithms, which we believe will save the wheat industry $620 million in weeding alone."

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman inspected QUT's AgBot at Gardens Point Campus yesterday (May 21).

The AgBot's first field trial is scheduled for June on Swarm Farm in Emerald.

Other QUT robotics projects include:
- Building underwater robots that are highly manoeuvrable, travel hundreds of kilometres, stay deployed at sea for multiple weeks, and carry a wide variety of instruments.
-Fleets of eco-friendly, robotic farm-hands to intelligently apply herbicides
-Dinner plate sized robots that can zoom to hard-to-reach places to do jobs which are too difficult or dangerous for people
-GPS navigation systems using low-resolution cameras instead of satellites, which often get scrambled in cities
- Developing, with partners, technology to enable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to fly regularly in civilian airspace.

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Media contacts:
- Alita Pashley, QUT media officer, (07) 3138 1841 or alita.pashley@qut.edu.au
- Rose Trapnell, QUT media officer, 07 3138 2361 or 0407 585 901 rose.trapnell@qut.edu.au

 

The AgBot, created by QUT's Robotics lab