University of Sydney's Australian Centre for Field Robotics director of innovation and research Professor Salah Sukkarieh with RIPPA the robot at Rugby Farms, Gatton.
University of Sydney's Australian Centre for Field Robotics director of innovation and research Professor Salah Sukkarieh with RIPPA the robot at Rugby Farms, Gatton. Francis Witsenhuysen

You little RIPPA

IN A Queensland first RIPPA, the robot which can detect weeds and foreign objects in crops, has been trialled at Gatton's Rugby Farms.

The 250 kilogram solar-powered robot also has the ability to collect data using sensors that can map an area of a crop.

The University of Sydney's Australian Centre for Field Robotics Director of Innovation and Research Professor Salah Sukkarieh said RIPPA can also use this data to estimate yield and fertilise crops.

"RIPPA was developed six months ago, but is experiencing new soil types and new crops for the first time here,” Prof Sukkarieh said.

Prof Sukkarieh said the robot has a collection of sensors and sophisticated algorithms which can detect weeds in the crop, along with foreign objects such as a stone, glass or metal.

He said the next step was to build systems that can remove the weed and the foreign object.

RIPPA the robot can help growers by running autonomously for up to 22 hours to identify weeds and foreign objects in crops.
RIPPA the robot can help growers by running autonomously for up to 22 hours to identify weeds and foreign objects in crops. Francis Witsenhuysen

"We've been building RIPPA because the horticulture industry has been asking us to develop something around automation and to help with managing individual crops, to create more productivity,” Prof Sukkarieh said.

RIPPA (Robot for Intelligent Perception and Precision Application) spent three hours at Rugby Farms moving up and down lettuce crop rows, conveying extensive data live to the laptop of Sydney university researchers.

"The idea is to let it go on its own, eventually the grower will be able to monitor it on their own lap tops,” Prof Sukkarieh said.

"It's trying to measure the crop, understand whether it should be spraying nitrogen on it and moving individual weeds.”

Prof Sukkarieh said eventually, RIPPA will be affordable to farmers.

The research and commission of RIPPA was co-funded by Horticulture Innovation Australia and the Australian Government.

Horticulture Innovation Research and Development team lead Dr Anthony Kachenko said RIPPA will help the critical issues of the horticulture industry.

"It can identify weeds and target spraying, so eventually it can help to reduce the amount of chemicals used on crops,” he said.

"What we are seeing here today is a first for Queensland, and a first for the Lockyer Valley region.”