ERIC addresses fields as large as 100ha, through the use of removable foundations, 50m-high masts, innovative winches and up to a 1.5-km-long High-Modulus PolyEthylene cables. Those cables are then linked to a versatile platform that can be equipped with farming tools. The platform will notably carry an extendable arm for late-development, foot of the crop operations. Through its Vertical Axis Wind Turbines on all masts, ERIC will be modular, robust, energy-autonomous and as green as the fields it farms.
Today, less than 2% of our food is grown organically – mainly because organic farming requires additional time and labour. For this reason, Farmboy Labs is working on ERIC, a large-area cable-driven robot that substitutes mechanical tools and manual labour in organic farms. As renting this robot costs less than what organic farms currently spend on equipment and manpower, our product will allow organic farms to cut their production costs and boost their market share. ERIC will enable new agricultural practices like precision organic farming through the use of permanent cover crops managed plant-by-plant, and make it possible to farm on previously challenging field topologies.
As our robot is suspended on cables above the ground, it avoids issues of soil compaction (and water problems worsen from them). Our technology also helps farmers cultivate currently untapped land that is fit for “commercial farm operations” (as labelled by the UN FAO, for example wetlands).
Unlike herbicides, that are spread indiscriminately over large areas, our large-scale Cable-Driven Parallel Robot will home in on individual plants, digging out undesirable weeds. This discrimination is all the more welcomed given the difficulties in the conventional herbicide-based approaches of dealing with weeds, namely herbicide resistance and public health concerns. Our mechanical farmhand could offer an answer to the decreasing efficiency and tightening regulations surrounding modern herbicides. The robot has no negative impact on the environment and reduces the fuel needed to operate many pieces of heavy farming equipment.
This project was presented during FIRA 2020 as part of the Scientific Seminar organised by Robagri.