Q: How are we going to feed people on Mars?
If you’ve seen The Martian (and you should. Also, read the book), you will be familiar with the most expensive fictional potatoes ever produced in human economic history:
Humans are going to colonise Mars, and we’re going to need food. Using human labour to produce this food will be very expensive, due to a massive shortage of labour. What we need are robots that can cultivate and harvest food for us autonomously, so we can do more interesting things like exploring & doing science!
Enter the robot(s)
We’re building a farming robot. Well, maybe more than one.
Who is “we”? Me and Till von Ahen
The first milestone is to build a system with a robotic arm that can harvest a chilli plant. Current thinking is a uArm Swift Pro. The harvesting tool will probably be a 3D printed device.
- The plants are a desktop size (so I can use a desktop robotic arm)
- The peppers are a different color which makes the computer vision part of the problem easier.
- They grow well hydroponically
With a successful chilli system, we can go bigger to tomatoes (also a great candidate for hydroponics).
- Hydroponics use 98% less water
- Lends itself to automation
This isn’t a long post, just a “Hello World”.
In the next post I’ll expand on the approach we’re taking for the computer vision/ML aspects of the system.
I’d love to hear your comments/suggestions below, this is a new field for me and I’m learning.
You can follow me on twitter if you’re interested in updates.