University of Sydney expert bags top award for “Ladybird” robot

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University of Sydney robotics expert Professor Salah Sukkarieh has been named the “2014 Researcher of the Year” at vegetable industry peak body AUSVEG’s National Awards for Excellence ceremony held last month.

University of Sydney expert bags top award for “Ladybird” robot
The Ladybird robot in action at a beetroot farm in Cowra, NSW.

His extensive work in farm robotics, in particular his development of a farm surveillance robot named the "Ladybird" has snagged him the prestigious accolade.

The unique machine was designed and built specifically for the vegetable industry with the aim of creating a ground robot with supporting intelligent software and the capability to conduct autonomous farm surveillance, mapping classification and detection for a variety of different vegetables.

"Ladybird focuses on broad acre agriculture and is solar-electric powered," Sukkarieh says.

"It has an array of sensors for detecting vegetable growth and pest species, either plant or animal."

"She also has a robotic arm for the purposes of removing weeds as well as the potential for autonomous harvesting."

He adds a recent trial conducted in Cowra, New South Wales has been a success.

The robot was able to drive fully autonomously up and down rows and from one row to the next while gathering sensor data. Sensors include lasers, cameras and hyper spectral cameras.

"Part of our research program is to find new ways to provide valuable information to growers about the state of their paddocks," Sukkarieh adds.

The robot was fully charged before heading to the onion, beetroot and spinach farms of Cowra where it was fully operational for three consecutive days.

Future testing of the Ladybird will include a robot manipulator arm located under the vehicle that has potential for spot sensing or spot sampling and automated harvesting.

In addition to the Ladybird, Sukkarieh is also working with his University of Sydney colleagues across different faculties such as Veterinary Science, Agriculture, Science and Business to develop new ideas and technologies that will improve the nation’s complex food production systems.

The National Awards for Excellence were presented as part of AUSVEG’s annual National Convention which ran from June 19 to 21 at the Cairns Convention Centre.

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