Food is increasingly becoming a global topic. Not only how will we feel the 9 billion people in the very close future, but also how can we do it without destroying environment, how can we do it in a sustainable manner. Do we want to continue eating food that has been chemically treated and picked/killed a weeks before it reaches out plates?
Yet more and more people chose to live in urban areas – leaving less and less space for their food to be grown locally.
Dickson Despommier is a proponent of Vertical farms – a concept I find intriguing. I envision a robot farmer helping with the chores however: Planting, Monitoring and Harvesting. I believe that people to their greatest work when they don’t have to do it, when they do what they love for the pleasure of it. By liberating the farmer from having to do these chores, they’ll focus their attention on monitoring the robot and also on doing either one of these tasks but devoting themselves to it – to benefit the society.
My BIG VISION – Rooftop Greenhouses over original proposal by Henning Larsen Architects for the Umeå Artistic Campus.
The greenhouses could potentially provide for lunches of all the students taking classes in these buildings. Fresh greens, and a serving of fish not only stimulates the brain for creativity but also reduces the time and resources from branch to plate. Not a lot of light leaks out as windows are covered by reflective curtains when it’s dark (a lot during the winter months) and fully open windows during the summer months to let in the 24 hour sun.
During the research phase of the project, in addition to reading and watching a lot of material about plants, farming and robotics, I also visited a GMO growing greenhouse at Umea University to speak to the people taking care of the plants as well as observe the daily operations and tools involved. I also successfully grew sunflower seeds in a transparent gel medium and conducted interviews and brainstorms with fellow students.
In order to design a robot that would go inside an environment, I first must have a pretty good understanding of what the environment will be, therefore I made a proposal for a rooftop vertical growth greenhouse. Fitted with an aquaponic setup and greens with different maturity cycles. There has to be enough room between the plants for proper air circulation, for the robot to move around and operate effectively as well as for the farmer to get in and tend to the growth when needed. It made sense that for a robot to perform similar functions to a human – the robot must be humanoid. 3.5 to 6 meter high rooms allow for plenty of space and still a stable configuration for the robot.
Using LEGO NXT kit, as well as rapid prototyped parts and rough mockups, I was able to test out several configurations of the chassis and arm configurations.
1) 1:1 scale mock-up to verify proportions as well as interactions with the user. It also allowed to see if the stance of the robot was intimidating and when and how should it interact in order to appear subservient and not dominant. 2) Styling 3) CNC programming for scale model building