Monday, July 25, 2016

Oh, patents! Naïo Technologies

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Aloha!* It's time for farmers to Rumba! The French startup Naïo Technologies is designing agricultural robots!

Do you have any idea how hard it is to till soil…? High tide for automating the year-in, year-out, back-breaking tasks of weeding, plowing, hoeing, sowing, mowing, spraying and clipping.

The prior art of agricultural machinery is significant. All sorts of tractor or rototiller machines assist farmers in toiling the land; machines equipped to sow, to hoe, to weed, to harvest and to apply pesticides. But all of this machinery requires a user/driver, and the machines are often too big to navigate narrow rows of fruit and vegetable crops. Besides, this heavy machinery is also well-known and criticized for its large fossil fuel footprint, with designs supporting extensive use of pesticides and herbicides, in turn also contributing to greenhouse gas effects.  

In comes the Naïo Technologies automated autonomous agricultural device… an agricultural robot (and farming companion) which no longer requires a driver, and is small enough to navigate narrow rows of crops, in particular fruits and vegetables. The Naïo agricultural robot is also optimized to perform non-randomly in a field of obstacle geometry with a delimited perimeter. 

The Naïo robot is equipped with an on-board computer allowing it to navigate obstacle geometries consisting of the plants, and to use (for ex,. to lift or to lower) its various weeding and hoeing tools. Its payload includes a camera and means to process images captured of crops or surroundings, a data collection module both to analyze soil, crop and other relevant geospatial and environmental variables, and to keep track of tasks, and it also has extensions allowing for harvesting, weighing and unloading products. 

At the end of day, or of a particular set of tasks....when the Naïo robot runs out of power, it is also equipped with means to return to it’s charging unit and to dock – all of which is viewable and controllable via mobile device such as a phone or tablet!

Reminiscent of the highly adaptable Naïo plant native of Hawaï, the design of Naïo robots can be customized to sow (informed with geo-local information), weed, hoe and harvest according to various crops, or to maintain a whole vineyard. The Naïo robots might also be programmed to function as “scarecrows” with various sounds, lights and smells designed to protect seeds prior to germination against pests and insects. They might be programmed as irrigation devices, dispensing, monitoring or carrying water. They might work in collaboration with several other robots each programmed with a specific task. Thus, the Naïo robots are not only designed to make farming easier and less strenuous but also to mindfully produce healthier and more environmentally friendly crops, decreasing the need for herbicides and pesticides, measuring with precision the geo-local needs of the crops, and consequently also reducing the carbon footprint of agriculture.

The Naïo Technologies robotics and various embodiments of the invention are disclosed in FR3001202, titled; in English; Autonomous automated agricultural device.   The English abstract is included below with a figure drawing showing the sorts of crop geometries that the robot is able to navigate – non-randomly.
The present invention concerns an autonomous automated agricultural device (1) comprising at least energy supply means (13) and movement means (12), as well as comprising movement optimisation means (21, 20, 211, 212) enabling it to use the geometry of the crops in which it is disposed in order to move in a non-random manner. The present invention also concerns the use of a device according to the invention for cultivating agricultural plots and gathering data. The present invention also concerns a method for assisting in the cultivation of agricultural plots, using the device of the invention to carry out at least one maintenance operation on an agricultural plot.

Naïo Technologies

* "Naïo" is a small native plant of  Hawaii able to adapt to its environment.

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