#Asia This robotic machine can detect, locate and pick the harvestable crops from your farm and store them in a bin


GRoboMac is a machine that can be used to harvest row-type crops like cotton, ladies finger, brinjal and tomato


A degree from the prestigious Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore and a successful career as a semi conductor professional did not stop Manohar Sambandam from pursuing his passion: farming.

So, after spending a considerable time at companies such as Texas Instruments and Broadcom, he came back to his home state of Tamil Nadu (South India) and started growing various crops, including cotton.

Being a farmer himself, he has long realised that the key challenge faced by the agriculture industry in India is the labour shortage.

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 This is because labourers from rural India have migrated to cities seeking greener pastures and better wages, and some have taken up other jobs. As a result, farm lands are fast disappearing and the lands are sold to larger industrialists.

Sambandam realised that he needed to do his bit to address this challenge.

“The key challenge faced by the cotton farming industry is the lack of labour availability. Although it is cash crop, the dwindling labour availability due to migration to cities and to other jobs has made cotton farming unviable,” says Sambandam. “So I decided to use my skills and experience as a semiconductor professional to develop a technology that can replace human labour.”

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Enter Green Robot Machinery (GRM), a startup that is developing a machinery for harvesting of row-type crops like cotton. The company, founded two years ago, has already won accolades for its yet-to-be launched product GRoboMac.

Watch the video.

“We develop small and smart farm machinery for harvesting the produce of row-type crops. Cotton and most of the horticulture crops fall in this category. Green Robot Machinery is adopting some of the advance technologies to bring in intelligence to the farm machinery. We use machine vision to detect and locate the produce (cotton or vegetables) and use a robotic arm to harvest it from the plant,” explains Sambandam.

Launched in September 2014, GRoboMac is primarily used for harvesting of cotton. The machine is operated by an operator, who will guide it over the row of cotton plants. The machine will detect and locate the harvestable cotton, and the robotic arm of the system will pick the cottons and store them in a bin.

According to Sambandam, the machine is capable of picking and storing up to 500 kgs per day, which is equivalent to 10 human labour.

GRoboMac uses 3D machine to detect and locate cotton. As of now, Microsoft Kinet device is used for this. In addition, GRoboMac has a robotic arm to pick the harvest. The machine uses multiple of such arms to provide better performance. This robotic arm is mounted to an electro mechanical vehicle which can move over the field. These machines are compact and suits the Indian farm size.

“GRoboMac is primarily used for crops like cotton, ladies finger, brinjal and tomato. Other farm operations such as mechanical weeding, spraying and seeding can also be done using this machine,” Sambandam elaborated.

“Horticulture is moving more towards green house farming and these machines are very suitable for green house farming. Cotton farms in China is very similar to that in India with small farm lands and are currently done completely manually,” he said when asked about the opportunities. “We see our machineries use in China for cotton and in Europe for horticulture crops, where green house farming is fast becoming a norm.”

The machine is currently priced at INR 5 lakh (US$22,000). It is mainly targeted at farming-as-a-service (FAAS) companies and custom hiring centres (CHCs), who provide farming services to the farmers.

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“We also expect large farmers to buy the machine. They typically own tractors and rents these machinery to fellow farmers,” he added.

The final product is expected to hit the market in late 2017.

GRM is one of the 10 QPRIZE winners of 2016 and it received US$10,000 grant from Qualcomm as part of the competition. In addition, Qualcomm also provided hardware and access to its labs.

“The technology being built by us for our final product uses advance computer hardware used in mobile phones. Qualcomm is also interested and is investing and developing solutions required in robotics and unmanned areal vehicles (UAVs). We plan to use their processor for the machine vision and robotic computing hardware,” he continued.

As of now, the machine is manufactured by the company itself. It is also actively looking to partner with a larger Indian agro machinery firms for commercial production.

Based out of Bangalore, GRM currently employs five full-time employees and four consultants.

Being the second largest population in the world with over 1.2 billion people, India cannot afford to lose its farm lands. If mechanisation of farming is the only solution, then the agriculture industry should not be averse to accept it. Else, the country will soon become a barren land.

The post This robotic machine can detect, locate and pick the harvestable crops from your farm and store them in a bin appeared first on e27.

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