Artechno Automatic Seeding Line
Artechno is a innovative company offering automation solutions for horticulture. One of their ongoing projects is to create a fully automated vertical farm that can be placed in any building. The idea is that crops can be grown very close to or even in the middle of a city, minimizing transport time. Because this vertical farm is totally automated, the building is well sealed from the outside world so that there will be no contamination. This means that is not necessary to spray pesticides on the crops.
The subject of this project is the seeding line of the vertical farm. The robot must sow different types of seeds in trays, which are then transported to their germination spot. The task was to make a proof of concept for this seeding line and to check the results with a vision system (quality control). The focus was on designing a well-functioning seed mechanism. After a lot of conceptual design and testing, a vacuum method was chosen to pick up and sow seeds. This uses a plate with holes (smaller than the seeds themselves), which sucks seeds against the plate and holds them, until the vacuum is released. The difficulty was that different seeds have different sizes and seeding densities. This was solved by making plates with different hole sizes and densities, which the robot can switch between. The final proof of principle setup can be seen in our video. This system works well and the project led to many useful recommendations for Artechno.