University of Minnesota readies “Cowbot” autonomous pasture mower
June 28, 2022 by Manure Manager
The University of Minnesota’s college of science and engineering team is just about ready to set its “cowbot” out into the world. The cowbot is an autonomous lawnmower that cuts down on weeds in cattle pastures – researcher Parikshit Maini called it “a Roomba for an agricultural farm.”
“When the cattle graze these farms, they eat the soft, grassy plants and leave behind the weeds. Once they have grazed all of the field, we want to have the mower go in and mow all of the weeds,” said Maini, a postdoctoral researcher working in computer science and engineering professor Volkan Isler’s Robotic Sensor Networks Lab. He is helping to lead the project, along with PhD student Minghan Wei.
The cowbot will help help cut down on labor hours while also helping farmers, who might otherwise rely on chemicals to kill weeds, cut down on their chemical use. The cowbot is equipped with different sensors to help it navigate challenges such as gopher mounds, boulders and hills, and is programmed with algorithms that correspond to different mowing patterns, such as u-turns and spirals. Researchers are planning on adding a front camera to allow the cowbot to detect weeds and mow more effectively.
Researchers have been working with manufacturer Toro, which provided them with one of its lawnmowers to modify. They are also collaborating with University of Minnesota Morris’ West Central Research and Outreach Center to make the machine solar-powered and self-sufficient.
Read more about the Cowbot here.