Grain-surfing robot eases crop monitoring

STORY: This robot can surf across grains of wheat or barley like its swimming through water.

Its creators say it could change the way we store the food we grow and even save lives.

An Edinburgh-based startup Crover has designed the robot to give farmers a better look at the environment inside a silo or shed.

If it’s too hot, it could mean infestations of mold or insects and significant portions of a famers crop bring destroyed.

To get a taste of how the silo’s doing, the robot “swims” in the grain burrowing itself in the heap and taking measurements for temperature and humidity.

“We want to take a measurement, we stop, go into penetration mode, and we are ready to deploy the probe.”

Lorenzo Conti is the inventor of the device.

“The main purpose of the robot is to make sure that the same quality of grain that goes into storage is the one that comes out, and helping the likes of farmers, grain merchants, cooperatives and port operators, reduce mass and quality losses.”

Conti says a large bulk grain store can currently take days to sample, while a Crover robot could produce a 3D map of the heap’s temperature and moisture levels in a fraction of that time.

Crover, which is baked by the UK and Scottish governments, aims to replace traditional processes to check on grain.

Doing it manually involves stepping out onto the heap and sampling it with a spear an often labor-intensive process that is potentially dangerous.

“The main way of monitoring grain bulks at the moment is still sending a person to physically walk on top of the grain bulks, which is very dangerous to do because grain entrapment and grain engulfment can be fatal. And a lot of companies do not do any monitoring or sampling at all because of the dangers involved.”