Directed Machines’ farming robots get an RP2040 makeover
Way back in 2020, we heard about a small company on a mission to remove pollution and minimise human labour in land care. Raspberry Pi 4 is at the heart of Directed Machines‘ solar-powered, autonomous, electric tractors called Land Care Robots.
How it started
We spotted them on LinkedIn after the company’s ‘Electrical Engineering Guy’ Chris Doughty posted about the custom HAT that had been specially created to expand the functionality of the Raspberry Pi 4s they were using.
Directed Machines founder George Chrysanthakopoulos worked in software development for over 20 years, some of it as part of a secretive robotics initiative at Microsoft. Once he left the industry, he started designing solar-powered robots to help manage annual snowfall. Local farmers took notice of his man-made field assistants, and the two sides got talking about the need for low-cost automation to assist with pesticide and plant management issues.
How it’s going
Directed Machines’ Land Care Robots are able to ‘see’ depth and colour. They can prepare the ground, apply fertiliser and pesticides, sow seeds, pull weeds, and harvest crops. You could also attach things like snowploughs to take the frozen knuckles out of snow shovelling.
Upgrades have taken place since we first met these solar powered robo-farmers more than two years ago. As well as Raspberry Pi 4, the Land Care Robot uses a board with our flagship microcontroller RP2040 (which didn’t even exist back in 2020), together with an Adafruit IMU, as a sensor co-processor to support autonomous navigation. And a second RP2040 microcontroller board acts as a low-current electronics co-processor, monitoring and regulating solar charging.
These Land Care Robots have been selling across North America for two years now. They are at work on golf courses, solar farms, rural properties, and plant nurseries. One customer out in Southern California has their robot working sloped terrain at a 55 degree angle. It does get a nice view overlooking the Pacific Ocean, so don’t feel too sorry for it.
More Raspberry Pi in industry
Directed Machines is the latest industrial use case to feature on our new Success Stories page. Check it out to learn how Raspberry Pi helps Brompton make their bicycles, iPourIt monitor their beer taps, and more.
Organic Couch Potato
This would have been a lovely and inspirational story if it were not for the pesticides. Oh, well, planet Earth still has some way to go before intelligent life evolves. But that’s a work in progress and it does include an RPi… ;-)
GAVIN B MCINTOSH
Silent Running had some of my favorite bots, Huey, Dewey and Louie, death to caterpillars, pluck, squish.
Need a smaller machine that specializes in snails for lettuce guard duty and whatever is eating the potato plants leaves in the home garden.
Raspberry Pi Staff Liz Upton
I want one with a laser turret for muntjac deer.
For software compatibility, the 01Space board can be treated as a Raspberry Pi Pico — meaning there’s support in both MicroPython and CircuitPython, or it can be used with the Arduino IDE using Earle Philhower’s community Arduino core. For the latter, 01Space offers a selection of example programs — including one that loads and displays small animated GIFs on the single-color display.
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