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Agriculture Ladybird robot

Agriculture and the environment

Pioneering agricultural technologies for more than 10 years

Our agricultural researchers are working on a range of innovative projects involving robotics and intelligent software, such as unpiloted air and ground vehicles for farming specialty crops, trees, livestock, and weed management.


Horticulture – HICRIS

Our Horticulture Innovation Centre for Robotics and Intelligent Systems (HICRIS) jointly launched with Horticulture Innovation Australia in October 2016. Part of our Australian Centre for Field Robotics, HICRIS is Australia’s first horticultural robotics learning and development hub with a focus on robotics to increase farm efficiency and productivity for the vegetable and tree crop industries.

A major research project under HICRIS uses autonomous systems to guide farm decision making. Predictive tools allow growers to achieve greater crop uniformity and quality, while forecasting input cost and planning optimal harvest time.

Work continues to be done with the horticultural industry to develop new methods to assess the health and yield of crops.

A number of robotic systems are used as part of HICRIS, including the Robot for Intelligent Perception and Precision Application, Ladybird, SHRIMP and multi-rotor drones, to name a few.

Projects under HICRIS

Our experts: Professor Salah Sukkarieh, Dr Asher Bender, Dr Richard Murphy, Dr Anna Chilingaryan, Dr Zhe Xu, Mr Steven Potiris, Mr Nathan Wallace, Mr Justin Clarke, Mr Mark Calleija

Our industry partnersHorticulture Innovation Australia

This project examines the application of robotics and intelligent systems to on-farm decision making through advanced sensing and machine perception techniques, decision support systems, mechanisms and robotics for crop interaction and farm automation.

Our experts: Professor Salah Sukkarieh, Dr Zhe Xu, Mr Steven Potiris, Mr Justin Clarke, Mr George Wakeham, Mr Mark Calleija, Mr Vsevolod Vlaskine, Mr Vinny Do, Mr Matthew Imhoff

Our industry partnersHorticulture Innovation Australia, RM Consulting Group, TechMac

This project aims to evaluate the technological developments made in the companion project above by trialling and demonstrating the innovations in major vegetable production areas around Australia. This includes examining the intellectual property landscape and commercialisation opportunities, assessing the economic feasibility of adopting these technologies on farms and engaging growers through communications and extension activities.

Our experts: Professor Salah Sukkarieh, Dr James Underwood

Our industry partnersHorticulture Innovation Australia

This project looks at integrating the latest sensing and robotic technologies to provide mango, avocado and macadamia farmers with tools to help improve their decision making and improve production and profit. 

Other projects

Our experts: Professor Salah Sukkarieh

The Digital Farmhand is a robot with two electrically-powered wheel modules connected by a telescopic frame, with a smartphone on the top to collect data. The robot can be dismantled and reassembled on site in 10 minutes. The objective is to develop a low-cost robotic and digital technology for row crop applications. In 2016, trials took place in Indonesia to investigate how robotics can be used for farming in a developing country and these trials have continued across Australia.

Our experts: Professor Salah Sukkarieh, Dr Zhe Xu

Our industry partnersGrains Research and Development Corporation

The Australian Centre for Field Robotics was awarded a project as part of the Future Farm Program, led by the Grains Research and Development Corporation and the Cotton Research and Development Program. They examined the use of technology to reduce the cost of farming inputs, increase safety and reduce labour costs.

Our experts: Professor Salah Sukkarieh, Mr Marc Rigter, Ms Amanda Stead, Dr David Johnson, Dr Graham Brooker, Dr Zhe Xu

Our industry partnersGrains Research and Development Corporation

Working with the Faculty of Science and the Director of Weed Research at the Plant Breeding Institute, the Australian Centre for Field Robotics has established a project to review non-chemical weeding technologies such as lasers, mechanical weeding and steaming. This approach will become more important as herbicide resistance increases.

Our experts: Professor Salah Sukkarieh

In 2016 the world’s first cattle station custom robot – SwagBot – was developed by the ACFR. It is an omnidirectional electric robotic ground vehicle that is capable of navigating rugged terrain. It can operate in a difficult cattle station environment through water crossings and steep ground. Future research will look at ways for SwagBot to undergo autonomous farming practice, including monitoring and interacting with plants and animals.

Our experts: Mr John Gardenier, Dr James Underwood, Dr Cameron Clark (Faculty of Science)

Our industry partners: Dairy Australia

Working with Dairy Australia, the Australian Centre for Field Robotics is building a sensor system to detect lameness in cows – a common condition where a disease or injury affects the way a cow walks, causing discomfort to the animal and a reduction in productivity for the dairy.

Our experts: Professor Salah Sukkarieh, Dr Zhe Xu

Our industry partners: NSW Smart Sensing Network

The Australian Centre for Field Robotics worked on a project to locate koalas in forests using machine-learning techniques, analysing the recordings of mating calls to improve the accuracy of detecting koala calls and group the calls into meaningful segments of the koala population.