Autonomous, robotic platform harvesting leafy/microgreens in a vertical farm system

Project number: 
UA Department of Biosystems Engineering
Academic year: 
The world’s population is projected to increase to 10 billion by the year 2050. Traditional agriculture is costly and inefficient compared to Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA). New technologies have reduced the operational costs of CEA, but humans still perform the harvesting operations, which is costly. The team created a machine that reduces the need for manual labor when harvesting produce from greenhouses or vertical farms.

The machine can cut the leafy greens or microgreens, cut the roots, remove the growing media from the foam growing board and direct these items to the next step in the process. The team focused on using readily available commercial components to minimize cost and improve availability of replacement parts. The design includes hedge trimmer cutting blades, stepper motors and conveyor belts, as well as an aluminum frame with a platform that accepts foam growing rafts. The operator uses a touchscreen linked to a Raspberry Pi single-board computer and an Arduino microcontroller to indicate which product is being harvested.

This product met all of its system requirements and greatly reduced the time and labor costs associated with the harvesting operation in CEAs.

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