Trax – Autonomous Herbicide Robot

  • 2021

  • Next Gen

Designed By:

Commissioned By:

Zené Krige

Designed In:

New Zealand

Trax is an autonomous ground vehicle combatting weeds on agricultural land, minimising herbicide use while effectively supressing weeds. Designed with farmers in mind, Trax locates weeds via cameras and sensors, houses three different herbicides, and logs their location so that farmers can make informed decisions for their pastures.

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Image: Photograph by Daniel Harmsworth
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  • Currently, broad-spectrum spraying causes unnecessary amounts of herbicide to enter the environment when attempting to treat weeds, causing herbicide resistance over time. Weeds outcompete grass for nutrients, sunlight and water, resulting in less productive pasture for livestock. Current methods of treatment are time consuming for busy farmers and costly on a seasonal basis, and extended exposure to harsh chemicals have been linked to some health concerns. An investigation into the form of agricultural devices led me to explore what the future of these devices look like with sustainability in manufacture and function being at the forefront of the design challenge.

  • This project was initiated by a desire to design an impactful product that delivers benefit to farmers while exploring the relationship we have with autonomous devices and their data. Early detection of weeds and proper treatment through the correct chemical for the identified weed promotes sustainable practice and looks at a future where treating weeds with minimal to no chemicals is a reality. Camera detection and a linear arm allow the spray nozzle to align with the centre of the weed, ensuring accuracy and dosing only as required, minimising chemical waste and herbicide resistance.

  • With the user experience and sustainability at the forefront of the design process, Trax aims to provide the benefit of cost and time savings to the farmer, as well as the health benefits in reduced direct contact with herbicide. Informed and visualised data allows the farmer to gather a snapshot of the overall health of the pasture. Reducing unnecessary herbicides from entering the soil allows for better soil health and lessened herbicide resistance. Contactless herbicide containers allow the user to refill with their own product or purchase the long capsules already full, catering to different attitudes around herbicide use.

  • Trax has a home station which he returns to at the end of each day, induction charging the battery and refilling the water container. It does not spray in the same paddock as livestock, at night or when it rains. Sprayers located on the side panels also allow for fence line spraying, suppressing weeds spreading from neighbouring areas. Torsion bar suspension allows for a strong and durable chassis that can withstand the impacts of daily life on the farm. Made from materials such as recycled HDPE which has good chemical resistance, Trax is manufactured to allow parts to be replaced with ease. A visor protects the forward-facing cameras which assist Trax in navigating the paddock. The water container is kept separate from the chemicals and only mix at the nozzle, minimising chemical waste common when hand-spraying. The linear arm allows the nozzle to position to the centre of the weed, dosing only as required and directly to the source. Three different types of herbicide will lessen resistance to only one and mean that different weed species can be dosed accordingly. A semi-functional prototype and smaller model was created of the design to assist in visualising this design concept.