Robots capable of monitoring and managing crops to increase sustainable agriculture. It is the heart of the joint project of the Catholic University and the Italian Institute of Technology (Iit) that they have cut the ribbon today of the new laboratory which integrates internationally active research groups in the field of agricultural sciences and applied robotics. And among the aims of the laboratory is the creation of a robotic system that can make work in the agro-food sector safer and more sustainable. The inauguration of the robotics laboratory for agriculture took place this afternoon, at 4.30 pm, live on all social networks of the Catholic University and the Italian Institute of Technology. The laboratory is the result of the agreement signed between the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart (Ucsc) and Iit it will be based on the Piacenza campus of the university where robots for monitoring and managing crop systems will be developed. It is “an agreement born to develop innovative approaches in agricultural, food and environmental sciences, with particular attention to the development of rapid molecular diagnostic methods, of new materials derived from by-products of the agro-food industry and of robotic systems for monitoring and management of crop systems, of which the robotics laboratory is one of the results ” recalled Pier Sandro Cocconcelli, head of the research program for the Catholic University. The interdisciplinary working group on robotics in agriculture works on the creation of integrated systems chand, thanks to the collection, transmission and processing of data, promote the digitization and automation of agricultural activities. “Introducing robotic applications in agricultural habit means promoting the sustainable growth of agricultural production, helping to tackle the problem of labor shortages” underlined Matteo Gatti, professor of viticulture and contact person of the laboratory for the Catholic University, who specifies how the improvement of robotic solutions in the agricultural field is mainly oriented towards three application areas: “autonomous navigation, sensing and crop manipulation“.
Gatti remarked that “digital agriculture involves the use of smart machines, whose functioning implies a rigorous knowledge of the morpho-physiology of plants and animals, as well as of the best practices capable of optimizing the production process. One of the most stimulating aspects of the collaboration between the Catholic University and Iit is the synergy necessary to convert the cognitive process of man into algorithms for carrying out specific operations with the ultimate goal of make work more efficient, less tiring and safer “. The results of the joint work of the two realities will, in fact, lead to a more sustainable management in this particular agricultural sector, both from the point of view of worker safety and from the point of view of optimizing resources.
During the inauguration of the laboratory, after the greetings of the dean of the Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences of Cattolica, Marco Trevisan, of Pier Sandro Cocconcelli and Claudio Semini, Head of the Dynamic Legged Systems research line of the Italian Institute of Technology, the demonstration of the prototype for the robotic winter pruning of the vine was held as part of the ‘Vinum’ project, curated by Matteo Gatti and Fei Chen, group leader within the Advanced Robotics research line of the Italian Institute of Technology led by Darwin Caldwell. Semini explained that “through the use of artificial intelligence, an artificial neural network (Artificial Neural Network) was trained with the aim of distinguishing the different organs of the vine and identifying the cutting points at which a robotic arm connected to an electric scissors (end-effector) it will perform the pruning “.
“The arm – added Semini – will be installed on an innovative locomotion system, the HyQReal quadrupedal robot, which will see the first tests at the end of the next growing season and will then be perfected in the course of 2022 “. The IIT scientist then recalled that” the quadruped HyQReal robot, made in Iit thanks to the support of Inail, Moog and in the context of European project Echord ++, was first presented in 2019 when showed its strength by towing a 3.5 ton plane at Genoa Airport and is now ready for a new challenge. “Thanks to the new robotics laboratory, the researchers, after having performed the preliminary tests on the simulator, will be able to carry out subsequent checks in a controlled (indoor) and semi-controlled environment – that is, on plants raised in the environment. external, but in vase – before dealing with open field applications. (by Andreana d’Aquino)