Grain-flinging robot goes into granaries so farmers don't have to
While farmers have to perform a number of difficult tasks, tending to the grain stored inside grain bins (aka granaries) is particularly arduous – not to mention dangerous. That's where the Grain Weevil grain bin management robot is designed to come in.
First of all, why do farmers even have to go into the bins?
Well, for one thing, the piled-up grain needs to periodically be leveled in order to maintain good air flow. Crusts and bridges that form on its surface also have to be broken up, plus grain that accumulates along the walls must be pulled down. Finally, when the grain is being removed from the bin, it needs to be pushed into an extraction auger.
Going into the bins and manually shoveling the grain is not only a hot and difficult job, it also poses risks such as getting trapped or buried in the grain, getting caught in the auger, and developing lung disease from breathing in grain dust.
With these dangers in mind, a farmer friend of father-and-son duo Chad and Ben Johnson challenged the two to create a robot that could do the job. Based in the city of Aurora, Nebraska, Chad is a science educator and Ben is now an electrical engineer. Their response to the challenge is a robot known as the Grain Weevil.
Measuring approximately 20 by 20 inches (508 mm) and tipping the scales at 50 lb (23 kg), the square-bodied bot redistributes stored grain by moving through it on two motorized augers. One 20-minute charge of its battery is reportedly good for 90 minutes to two hours of use.
Chad tells us that it currently works about as fast as a person with a shovel, and is remotely controlled with human-initiated autonomy – that means it runs movement patterns on its own, but a human operator still makes the main decisions. It is hoped that by the end of this summer the robot will be Level 2 autonomous, performing all tasks while the farmer simply supervises.
"We are on track for a soft release late this fall but are navigating the product safety regulations before we can have a widespread release," says Chad. "Grain bins are classified as hazardous locations due to dust explosion risks, so the Grain Weevil has to pass stringent safety tests. The final price will be determined after all of the safety certifications are finished to ensure we can produce a quality, safe product."
You can see the Grain Weevil in action, in the video below.
Source: Grain Weevil