Aquarius: The Greenhouse Watering Robot

vanmunchvanmunch Posts: 563
edited September 2013 in Robotics Vote Up0Vote Down

Aquarius is a large robot that I built for use in greenhouses where each plant needs to be hand watered several times a day. I’ve been meaning to post it here for a while, but things keep getting busier. :)

This robot was born out of a cost saving brain storming session at my old job where we evaluated transgenic plants for efficacy against insects in a high throughput discovery pipeline in a large greenhouse system. It was typical for our group to have several thousand transgenic plants in our system at any particular time. Because these were newly transformed plants, they were very susceptible to desiccation, and they were very valuable so extra care had to be given to make sure they were given the correct amount of water. Aquarius was built and demonstrated that it was capable of quickly and accurately measuring the soil moisture in each pot, calculate the correct amount of water to give the plant and then dispense that amount of water. Aquarius did all of this simultaneously on both sides without slowing down.

Of course the thing that we find the most important is that Aquarius uses two Propeller chips for its main “brains” :)

More information, pictures, etc. is on our website: http://dorhoutrd.com/aquarius_robot

center stright - Copy.jpg
Watering mid-air.jpg
Going down row.jpg
Dorhout with Aquarius Prototype.jpg
Turning corner.jpg
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My wife is very, very understanding

Prospero: Robot Farmer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACtihXjq2B0
www.DorhoutRD.com
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Comments

  • 14 Comments sorted by Date Added Votes
  • Don MDon M Posts: 1,367
    edited August 2013 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Very nice! Question about the moisture sensing- what are you using to measure the moisture and how are you getting that info to the robot? From your video I couldn't see (or didn't know what I was looking for ... :-) )
  • ercoerco Posts: 14,411
    edited August 2013 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Fantastic! Bravo! Must hear more about Aquarius!
    You'll find me in the new Robotics forum.
  • davejamesdavejames Posts: 3,850
    edited August 2013 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Way to go, Dave!!!

    :thumb:
    Well-written documentation requires no explanation.
  • DiverBobDiverBob Posts: 507
    edited August 2013 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Looks very nice and is practical!
  • TinkersALotTinkersALot Posts: 530
    edited August 2013 Vote Up0Vote Down
    reminds me of Huey Dewey and Louie from Silent Running (the movie)
  • davejamesdavejames Posts: 3,850
    edited August 2013 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Don M wrote: »
    Very nice! Question about the moisture sensing- what are you using to measure the moisture and how are you getting that info to the robot? From your video I couldn't see (or didn't know what I was looking for ... :-) )

    I have the same question. I can see a "feeler wire" brushing along the moisture sensor(?), but what's the mechanism of fingering the moisture content?
    Well-written documentation requires no explanation.
  • vanmunchvanmunch Posts: 563
    edited August 2013 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Hey Guys, thanks. I think it's been my biggest project yet and a lot of fun to watch working.

    For the soil moisture sensors, all of the electronics are in the robot. The sensor “whiskers” make contact with the sensor that’s in the pot that then completes the circuit and measures the amount of water in the soil. The sensor itself is “dumb.” This both saves a lot of money and makes them autoclavable, which is really important in a transgenic greenhouse where everything has to be autoclaved. The important end of the moisture sensor or “sensor bulb” is normally buried at the root zone and is as hard as concrete.

    In the unedited video you can hear the solenoid values on the robot opening and closing, but the buzzing from the lights and ridge vents would have made the video unpleasant to watch. You kind of tune it out while you’re working in there, but it’s really annoying coming from your computer. :)

    One of the cool things is that Aquarius uses a dynamic power distribution system with regenerative breaking to adjust the amount of power each wheel received 10 times per second. This allows it to have a slow consistent speed even fully loaded (~500lbs) and while going up and down the floor ridges. You can even jump onto one side of it and it doesn’t even blink.

    Let me know if you have any other questions.
    My wife is very, very understanding

    Prospero: Robot Farmer
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACtihXjq2B0
    www.DorhoutRD.com
  • jdoleckijdolecki Posts: 661
    edited August 2013 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Does it refill it self when the water gets low
  • phatallicaphatallica Posts: 64
    edited August 2013 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Seriously cool robot. I can't believe that nobody has given extra credit for using plywood.
    ~ph
  • kwinnkwinn Posts: 5,892
    edited August 2013 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Now that's my kind of project. Has a useful purpose and fulfills it very well. Congratulations on a successful and well done robotics project.
    In science there is no authority. There is only experiment.
  • vanmunchvanmunch Posts: 563
    edited September 2013 Vote Up0Vote Down
    jdolecki wrote: »
    Does it refill it self when the water gets low

    Hi jdolecki, Yes, Aquarius has the capability to remember where is was when it ran out of water, refill itself using a refilling station and pick up where it left off. The refilling station was never built, but it was actually a really simple concept/ device that the robot controlled. :)

    Dave
    My wife is very, very understanding

    Prospero: Robot Farmer
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACtihXjq2B0
    www.DorhoutRD.com
  • Matt GillilandMatt Gilliland Posts: 1,398
    edited September 2013 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Now that's my kind of project. Has a useful purpose and fulfills it very well.

    2nd that.
    Seriously cool.
    Well done!
    -MattG
    - Matt Gilliland -
    - mattg@parallax.com
    - (916) 624-8333 x3018
    Ask me about the Lifetime Warranty on the Propeller BOE :smile:
  • Ken GraceyKen Gracey Posts: 5,665
    edited September 2013 Vote Up0Vote Down
    phatallica wrote: »
    Seriously cool robot. I can't believe that nobody has given extra credit for using plywood.

    Extra credit awarded!

    Excellent job all around vanmunch! Lots of utility, well-designed, scaleable, and really inspiring!
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