Science - June 23, 2005

Wageningen robot gets stuck

Sietse, the joint Plant Research International and Alterra field robot, ended a disappointing seventh during the Field Robot Event last Thursday, 17 June. The hot favourite refused to budge during the first round. Rowbo, the creation of five Agrotechnology students, came fourth.

The annual competition for field robots was won by students from the Hogeschool van Amsterdam with MicroCallum, which manoeuvred quickly and negotiated the course through a maize field almost unaided. The OptoMAIZER from Osnabrück came second and the CORNickel from Dresden third.

The Wageningen robot Sietse came second in last year’s event behind the A&F team’s Cropscout. The A&F team did not participate this year, and if Sietse had not had the setback in the first round it would have stood a good chance of winning. Once the problems were solved, Sietse completed an almost perfect second round and did win the prize in the Freestyle section, which involved searching for potato plants between the maize. On finding one Sietse shouted out ‘tada!’

A total of twelve teams competed in the event, including teams from Finland and Japan. Japanese researchers had made a hovercraft that attracted a lot of attention, but it did not do as well on the sandy soil in Wageningen as on the rice field where it had been tested. The field robot race was organised for the third year running by the Wageningen Farm Technology Group. Next year the university of Stuttgart will host the event. Field robots are likely to be used in the future to identify diseases in crops. / LdK

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