Joe Jones, the guy who introduced to the world the vacuum robot Roomba (and, by extension, a new trend in cat videos), is working on a new project. His startup Franklin Robotics develops a garden robot for weeding.
Why a Garden Robot?
It’s called Tertill and its mission is to take the weeding burden off the gardeners’ backs. Literally! Regular weeding is crucial for growing a successful garden, yet it forces you to spend a lot of time with your back bent in awkward positions. Getting a robot to do the job for you sounds like a great idea, especially if you’ve got problems with your back. Not to mention all the time it could save! So, how does it work?
How Tertill Works
Solar panels on top of the robot keep the batteries charged. The waterproof construction makes Tertill always comfortable outdoors, there’s no need to bring it inside your house. It simply lives in the garden. Once charged, it sets off to seek the weeds. Sensors behind the front bumper measure the height of the objects ahead, be it a plant or an obstacle. If it’s high enough, Tertill turns away and keeps going. If it isn’t, the robot interprets it as a weed. To avoid accidental destruction of the seedlings, you need to put a protective collar around them. Tertill is chemical-free and simply cuts the weeds with a string trimmer. The algorithms it’s based on ensure it covers as much ground as possible.
The Future of Gardening
It’s not the first time Jones is involved in a robot-farming enterprise. His previous company, Harvest Automation, supplies robots to the greenhouse industry. Big machines for big farms. However, as Jones has always been more interested in small-scale machines, he thought it would be a good idea to build small robots for gardeners. In an interview with TechRepublic last year, Jones said:
“Ultimately, the goal is the same thing: to help out agriculture. In a decade or so, robots will grow our food.”
Before they do, however, it seems they will cut our weeds first. Tertill is planned to launch in the summer of 2017 through a crowdfunding campaign, so we should be able to see the final design soon. You can check their early prototype in the video below: