Undergraduate Major Project - 2020
Trax is an autonomous ground vehicle that spots-sprays weeds on agricultural land. Designed with farmers in mind, Trax explores how to minimise herbicide use while effectively suppressing weeds. Able to hold three different herbicides, the correct mixture can be used for different weeds and locates them within a paddock to indicate problem areas. This allows farmers to make more informed decisions for their pasture.
Currently, broad-spectrum spraying introduces unnecessary amounts of herbicide to the environment, causing herbicide resistance over time. Weeds outcompete grass for nutrients, sunlight and water, resulting in less productive pasture for livestock. Current methods of treatment are time-consuming for busy farmers and costly on a seasonal basis, and extended exposure to harsh chemicals linked to health concerns.
This project was initiated by a desire to design an impactful product that delivers benefits to farmers while exploring the relationship we have with autonomous devices and their data. Early detection of weeds and proper treatment through the correct chemical for the identified weed promotes sustainable practice and looks at a future where treating weeds with minimal to no chemicals is a reality.
Trax has a home station which it returns to at the end of each day, induction charging the battery and refilling the water container. It does not spray in the same paddock as livestock, at night or when it rains. Sprayers located on the side panels also allow for fence line spraying, suppressing weeds spreading from neighbouring areas. Torsion bar suspension allows for a strong and durable chassis that can withstand the impacts of daily life on the farm. Made from materials such as recycled HDPE which has good chemical resistance, Trax is manufactured to allow parts to be replaced with ease. A visor protects the forward-facing cameras which assist Trax in navigating the paddock. The water container is kept separate from the chemicals and only mix at the nozzle, minimising chemical waste common when hand-spraying. The linear arm allows the nozzle to position to the centre of the weed, dosing only as required and directed to the source.
With the user experience and sustainability at the forefront of the design process, Trax aims to provide the benefit of cost and time savings to the farmer, as well as the health benefits in reduced direct contact with herbicide. Informed and visualised data allows the farmer to gather a snapshot of the overall health of the pasture. Contactless herbicide containers allow the user to refill with their own product or purchase the long capsules already full, catering to different attitudes around herbicide use.