HydroCobotics consortium is aiming to develop a safety protocol that will make it safer than ever to robotize hydroponic systems.
The HydroCobotics H2020 project reached an important milestone: on the 2nd of June, our researchers were able to test live how to robotize hydroponic systems where collaborative – can be used next to people – robot arms (cobots) which are used at production lines place seedlings in plastic hydroponic system made by Green Drops Farm Ltd.
The first tests were carried out at SZTAKI’s laboratory in Győr where the robot arm performed different tasks on a 5 levels hydroponic tower: it rotated the system and helped to transfer the seedlings.
The hydroponic tower developed by Green Drops Farm Ltd has a unique rotating base and the plants are placed in a special clip. The cobot arm grabs its end while inserting the plant in and out, so those can be moved safely, without significant injuries.
Most of the hydroponic systems use hydro pot, but the custom developed clips have many advantages: the adult plants can be removed easier without damaging those or the clips. The roots of the plant do not overgrow the clip as much as the pot which often needs to be discarded due to this. Clips can be reused in an environmentally friendly way. During the tests, the robot arm moved watercress, lettuce, basil, and 3D printed artificial plants.
The project aims to make it safe for humans and cobots to work together in robotic hydroponic production. The robot arm must carry out tasks with such care that do not risk human injury greater than permitted.
With the best safety in mind, Hepenix Ltd. carried out a risk analysis before the tests in order to exclude as many risks as possible. The HydroCobotics consortium is made up of Hepenix Ltd, which manufactures custom machines with commercial robots, Green Drops Farm Ltd, which manufactures and sells hydroponic systems, and SZTAKI EU Centre of Excellence in Information Technology and Automation, governed by the Eötvös Loránd Research Network. The project is supported by the European Union via the COVR project and will end in September 2021. COVR has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 779966