Raspberry Pi–powered robot farmers

We love seeing Raspberry Pi being used to push industry forward. Here’s an example of how our tiny computers are making an impact in agriculture. 

Directed Machines is a small company on a mission to remove pollution and minimise human labour in land care. Their focus is to do more with less, so the affordable power of our robust computers matches perfectly with their goals.

You’ll find a Raspberry Pi 4 at the heart of their solar-powered, autonomous, electric tractors called Land Care Robots.

Here are a few of the robot’s specs:

  • 30KW / 42HP peak power
  • 1400 ft.lb torque
  • 400W bi-facial, high-efficiency solar panel for 10KWh energy storage
  • 50″(W)×80″(L) with zero turn
  • Dual color and depth (distance measuring) cameras, accelerometer, magnetic compass, and GPS
  • 4G/3G/2G modem for self-update/telemetry publish/map downloads and WiFi, allowing direct control from smartphone or PC
  • Multiple autonomy modes, area coverage, and way-point navigation
  • Follow mode, person or peer robot, using wearable tag, depth sensors and motion control using smartphone touch/tilt, combined with obstacle avoidance

Directed Machine’s COO Wayne Pearson explains: “Rather than opting for the most advanced components (often the simplest solution), we endeavour to find affordable, easily sourced components. We then enable these components to accomplish more by ensuring efficient uses of compute/memory resources through our software stack, which we built from the ground up.”

“All in all,” Wayne continues, “this approach helps minimise unnecessarily inflated component costs (as well as the corresponding complexities) from being passed along to our customers — which keeps our prices lower and enables rapid field repair/maintenance.”

Here’s a practical example of that. This is a custom HAT Directed Machine’s ‘Electrical Engineering Guy’ Chris Doughty shared on LinkedIn. It was specially created to expand the functionality of the Raspberry Pi 4s they were using:

The HAT includes:

• 7-port USB 2.0 hub (six ports off-board) with individual port-power control
• 5A of 5.45V power to keep Pi running stable with high-current peripherals
• 9-axis IMU LSM9DS1
• Precision ‘M8P’ UBLOX GNSS receiver (capable of supporting RTK) SMA connection for external GPS antenna including DC for LNA
• 7–15V DC input to support automotive and accessory-port applications • Connects to standard Raspberry Pi 3 and 4 via pin-header and standoffs

Directed Machine’s founder George Chrysanthakopoulos shared the video at the top of this post on LinkedIn to demonstrate how the land care robots see the world while autonomously navigating. The combined power of Raspberry Pi 4 and their own built-from-the-ground software stack lets the robots see dual depth and colour streams at 15Hz. This is all made possible with a cheap GPS plus an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) for just $15 combined.

With a base price of the Land Care Robot is in the thousands, we’re not suggesting you should pick up one for your back garden — cutting the lawn is a childhood chore for the ages. But, for industry, the robot is a fine example of how businesses are using Raspberry Pi to cut both cost and environmental impact.

Also see Liz’s favourite project, the Cucumber Counter, and the popular CNC FarmBot, for more examples of ‘Down on the farm with Raspberry Pi’.


Ron Alexander avatar

I don’t understand how a single 400W panel will fully charge a 10kWh energy storage device (I assume LiFePO4 batteries x 8) since for average output we use 3 hrs X 400w giving only 1.2kWh. If time of year and latitude are known then the 1.2 could be more or less by a small or large amount. My location in a very long growing season (Apr 1-10, Nov 1-10) produces 3.3kWh per day avg in July using 4x170W panels. Something doesn’t make sense.

Georgios Chrysanthakopoulos avatar

Hi Ron, data we have gathered from many field tests indicate our panels produce, on average, 2.5KWh per day, Panel voltage at 40V, 8Amps pushed into our 48V stack. Between 10AM and 4pm, from April to September (growing season) at 45N ->47N Latitudes. This means we can a ton of work (mow for 8 hours, pull 5000lb+ for a couple, etc) then recharge within 2.5 days. Also, you can recharge within 3 hours from AC 110V outlet. More, on our website, you can play with our range calculator: https://directedmachines.com/LCR24Z.html#Range-Calculator
My personal linked in feed also has lots of videos of deployments, telemetry, etc. Feel free to contact us!

u don't need my name ok avatar

Ok I will try this

Harry Hardjono avatar

I’m having trouble watching the video because every time I want to maximize the video, it kept going to related post instead. Can you please put the extra blog navigation to where it doesn’t interfere with the main post? Not everyone can afford and use a big screen after all. Somewhere down below like it used to will work fine. Thanks.

Roger Foster avatar

There’s a video? I’ve turned off my adblocker and still don’t see a video.

Tom avatar

I wonder if this can be made to run a hoe up and down in between crop rows autonomously? I have a feeling you could make something a lot cheaper in mass production that would work out cheaper to clear weeds from fields than weedkiller.

George Chrysanthakopoulos avatar

Hi Tom, we support this scenario now: you attach a cultivator to one of our hitches, setup a work area, a row alignment, and using our depth camera, we align the robot with the plant rows to keep the blades from harming the plants, but mechanically removing the weeds. If you want to learn more please contact us. Please see our linked in feed for posts on precision weeding with mowing decks for row perennials: https://www.linkedin.com/company/directed-machines

Peter avatar

Funny, many I often see these trans things at computer events!

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