News: The Distributed Robotic Garden received worldwide news coverage
The Distributed Robotic Garden emerged out of a summer project at the Distributed Robotic Laboratory, CSAIL, MIT in Summer 2008 and has been developed by Nikolaus Correll and Daniela Rus. Our long-term goal is to implement an autonomous greenhouse based on autonomous robots and sensors. Emphasis of the project is on scalability and robustness. That is, the solution should be fully distributed with simple individual components. We will construct a mobile end-effector for manipulation as well as "intelligent" pots that provide distributed sensing and data storage to the system.
We consider plants, pots and robots to be systems with different levels of mobility, sensing, actuation, and autonomy. As a whole, the system can be considered a mixed artificial/natural society, which transforms energy, water and nutrients into produce. While this system allows us to study important problems in multi-robot coordination, visual servoing, force-feedback grasping, and spatial computing, we envision the following long-term applications:
Sustainable, Organic Agriculture
Using a large number of robots and embedding intelligence into the environment enables large-scale heterogeneous plant populations that are less prone to deplete the soil of specific nutrients and might allow for reduction of pestizides by intelligent local combination of plants. Also, on-demand watering can drastically reduce water consumption.
Providing a variety of produce on a small scale in a fully autonomous fashion enables long-term deployments of human populations on remote planets and space-ships.
Fruits and vegetables can be cultivated on the inside and outside of buildings where they positively contribute to the room climate, energy efficiency of the building and support the inhabitants diet.