For UV-C treatments of strawberries in outdoor conditions, a new UV-robot has been designed. To avoid damaging the crop, while crossing the crop rows, the implement has been made as slender as possible. Sliding doors are foreseen to cover the lamps. They serve as a protection of the lamps when there is no treatment performed. In addition, when switching crop row, they are closed such that only UV-C is applied where it is intended. Alternatively, lamps could be switched on and off. However, frequently switching has a negative impact on the lifetime of the lamps. The lamp covers have another function. When they are open, they serve as a wedge to open the foliage to prevent damage to the plants.
The vehicle is equipped with tires, that can handle more rough terrain and a front suspension to reduce the vibrations induced on the boom, carrying the UV-C lamps. To provide sufficient traction, all the wheels are driven by separate electric motors. The whole mechanical system has been designed to meet cost requirements
The navigation system is based on 3D cameras. They identify the crop row and based on this, the lateral distance and orientation of the vehicle is determined with respect to the plants. Based on this information, the robot is steered in the middle of the plants.
Under the hood, the robot is foreseen with integrated electronics, to further reduce the cost of the system.
Before operating the robot, the farmer needs to define his infrastructure (glass house, poly-tunnel). The crop rows that need to be treated can be defined as a mission. To execute a mission, the grower needs to place the robot at the beginning of the first crop row of a mission and define the starting time of the mission. At the requested starting time, the robot starts treating the plants. After completion of the mission, the robots shuts down.