Garden robots can take care of a variety of outdoor chores such as mowing and weeding. Most of them take advantage of GPS to follow direction patterns, have built-in sensors that can detect obstacles, and use special wheels that leave no tracks on a yard. Plus, when they’re done with work, they return to their charging stations ready to continue their work as soon as required.
The majority of these devices are wireless and much quieter than regular gardening machines. They also use batteries or are even solar-powered and benefit from advances in artificial intelligence and computer vision. The Mowbot, for example, can learn what parts of the lawn grow faster and dedicate more time to trimming them.
The demand for gardening robots has seen a recent increase fueled by the growth of the residential sector and commercial end-users in the United States, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region. Unlike other industries, and although there were some disruptions to the supply chain, the overall impact of COVID-19 remains low. The key leading vendors are Husqvarna, MTD Products, Robert Bosch, STIGA, and ZCS.
Tertill is a startup founded in 2017 through a Kickstarter campaign and quickly deemed the “Roomba” of the garden. This solar-powered robotic weed whacker was created by Franklin Robotics and is designed to do routine maintenance in users’ gardens.
It can sense plants and edges of a garden bed, and find small weeds on its own. A whacking mechanism is then lowered and gets rid of the sprout. The robot can also navigate over mulch or sand using its four wheels.
Tertill is a great option for gardeners with mobility limitations. In addition to the around $300,000 raised by the initial crowdfunding campaign, the company has earned $1 million in investments and expects to use the mower as a stepping stone for more robotics solutions.
Husqvarna has been known as a world leader in robotic mowing since 1995. Their machines are a great solution for large lawns that need to be mowed efficiently and automatically. More than 2 million gardens have a Husqvarna mower.
These robotic mowers are energy-saving and cut grass very finely so that the remains can re-supply the soil with much-needed nutrients and moisture. They also work in the rain, have GPS-assisted navigation, recharge automatically, and make no noise.
The mowers are compatible with the Gardena Smart System, which includes sensors for soil moisture, outside temperature, and light intensity, and can water lawns automatically. Husqvarna also offers a smartphone app, Automower® Connect, to keep track of what the mower is doing in real-time.
Miimo is an intelligent robotic mower from Honda Motor Company. During its 4-step setup process, the robot maps a garden layout, calculating its size, and creating a mowing calendar. When it’s done with its work, it returns to the base to recharge itself.
The robot is connected with and can receive instructions from Amazon Alexa. It comes in five models; the biggest of which (Miimo 3000) is able to cut up to 1 acre (4,000 square meters). Multiple Miimo HRM3000s can also work together to cover larger spaces, each one taking care of a different area and recharging at their own station. This makes Miimo a particularly good solution for large sections of land.
Grillbot is not precisely a garden assistant, but an automatic grill cleaning device that has been around for almost five years and continues to provide solid solutions for grill maintenance.
Designed to take the tedious work out of scraping a grill with the touch of a button, this hand-size robot has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and three independent motors with spinning brass brushes inside a heat-resistant shell. The Grillbot spins, stops, and restarts in a random fashion in order to cover surfaces evenly. It can clean grills in cycles of 10, 20, or 30 minutes and be used on cold or hot grills (up to 250 degrees) with any cleaning fluid.
The Grillbot has been called “the greatest thing to happen to barbecues since fire.”
The TrimBot2020 is a modified Bosch Indego lawnmower platform with a mounted Kinova arm that can perform automatic brush trimming and rose cutting using 3D computer vision. The project is funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 program and works in uncontrolled outdoor conditions without the need for illumination or sensors.
The robot navigates space using a user-defined garden map and 3D scene analysis to align itself with a trimming position next to a bush. It then utilizes a novel electric plant cutter attached to the arm and trims while scanning the shape with a stereo camera.
There are different actuators and control algorithms for topiary bushes (using rotating blades) and rose bushes (using stem clippers). Although the TrimBot2020 is still a prototype, the test runs have been very successful and the product is expected to inspire a new generation of garden assistants.
About the Author
Yisela Alvarez Trentini is an Anthropologist + User Experience / Human-Computer Interaction Designer with an interest in emerging technologies, social robotics, and VR/AR.