Advanced Yield Acquisition

The AYAbot (AYA) is a mobile robot designed to ease the physical burden of daily farm labor and streamline the process of record keeping.

We have a team of graduate students working to design a mobile robot to assist in harvest and record keeping. The barn will be the robot’s home, where it will sync records it collects in the field.

About AYAbot

The small and medium-sized farming sectors rely heavily on manual labor for maintaining and harvesting crops. This manual labor can be physically demanding to the point where it is unsustainable for the human body. For example, harvest of a large crop such as melons or squash requires maneuvers such as bending, lifting, and twisting with heavy objects. At smaller farms, crops are most commonly harvested into large bins, which then have to be carried (in an asymmetric load on the body, balanced on the hip) significant distances back to a truck or processing building.

In addition to relying on manual labor for harvest, small and medium-sized farms also rely on workers for data collection. Data collection and record keeping at many small farms is still heavily paper based, making it a time-intensive process that many farmers are forced to neglect in the interest of efficiency.

The AYAbot (AYA) is a mobile robot designed to ease the physical burden of daily farm labor and streamline the process of record keeping.  AYA is essentially a “smart cart”: a holding bin mounted on top of a set of wheels with the capability to be wirelessly instructed to travel and record yield data through a bluetooth smartphone connection. AYA will be designed to handle rough and changing terrain while carrying loads up to fifty pounds.

Autonomous and remote control travel

A user will link themselves to the AYAbot via a bluetooth connection from their smartphone. The user can then set AYA to (1) follow mode, in which AYA will follow the user using the bluetooth signal broadcast from the user’s phone, or (2) select a destination for AYA to travel to and wait at. In the case of destination selection, the destination will correspond to the location of one node of a radio beacon network, which will be installed in drip irrigation valves .

Upon arriving at a harvest destination, the user will put AYA into (3) harvest mode. In harvest mode, AYA will stay close to its user as they travel down a row and harvest into the AYAbot’s  holding bin. During harvest, if AYA senses that its holding vessel is at its maximum capacity, it will autonomously travel back to its central hub (in this case, the Dilmun Hill barn). After arriving at its central hub, AYA will shed its full holding bin and navigate back to its user.

Yield data collection and record generation

After reaching a harvest location, the user will use the AYAbot’s GUI on their smartphone to put AYA into harvest mode. Harvest mode will prompt the user to enter the name of the crop being harvested, and will then activate AYA’s data recording feature. The user will then harvest directly into the holding bin on the AYAbot, which will record and store the yield of the crop on its internal memory system.

After harvest, the user will wirelessly extract the yield data from AYA’s memory to their smartphone, which will then update a larger record system once the user has wifi.

This season, we are working to develop the “brain” of the system, focusing on the logic and electronic hardware.

After proof of concept, we plan to focus on building a robust body for AYA so that she can excel in the challenging environment of a farm.

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