Senior Design Projects

ECS193 A/B Winter & Spring 2022

Robotic transplanter for hydroponic grown lettuce

Name Heiner Lieth
Affiliation Plant Sciences department UCDavis

Project's details

Project title Robotic transplanter for hydroponic grown lettuce
Background In in-door hydroponic lettuce production, rectangular floating rafts/trays are used to grow individual plants in a rectangular configuration. Plants are started in substrate cubes (rockwool) and inserted into a raft where the holes are spaced close together. Once the plants have grown into each other, they must be transplanted into a raft with a wider hole spacing. Currently this is done by hand in all vertical farms. The objective of this is to build a robot that does this activity.
Description For this project it can be assumed that one raft is transferred to a location adjacent to a robotic arm. An empty raft is placed so that the robot can transfer the plant into a raft with a specified wider hole spacing. It is not necessary for the robot to be able to identify the raft sizes and hole locations since these are standardized and the relevant information is in a small database. The robotic arm has to carefully lift a plant out of its starting position in the original raft, with roots dangling down. The robotic arm must then lift and rotate, and insert the roots through the destination hole and place the plant correctly so that the roots dangle down through the raft while the upper part of the plant is upright. Once the robot has filled all spots in the destination raft, it waits until the operator has moved the destination rack back to the hydroponic system. A new empty destination raft needs to then slide in place (automatically), so more of the plants in the original tray can be moved. It needs to signal the operator when it runs out of plants in the original tray so that a new densely planted raft can be brought to the station. Ideally a new empty destination raft is already waiting and is on a short moving band so that as soon as a human moves a completed raft, the new empty raft moves into place while the operator moves the transplanted tray to the hydroponic system. This will then turn this 2- or 3-person job into a 1-person job and thus save labor costs. This is one of the most labor intensive activities in in-door vertical farms and virtually all such farms seek such a unit. One example of a hydroponic system with such rafts/trays is shown in the attached pdf file "SananbioRADIX.pdf" but for this project a different system will be used.
Deliverable Robotic arm with attachments as needed, work surface where operator can place a full raft and empty raft, and controller. Basically the complete package customized for a particular system (subject to discussion) designed and build with flexibility to allow it to be modified for other systems that exist.
Skill set desirable Mechanical and electrical engineering, robotics
Phone number 530 400 4310
Client time availability 30-60 min weekly or more
IP requirement Client wishes to keep IP of the project
Attachment Click here
Selected Yes
Stuff N/A
TA Tyler Mayxonesing