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Weeding Robot Keeps Gardens Clean
The Tertill from Franklin Robotics is designed to clean gardens of weeds the way a Roomba robotic vacuum cleans rooms. Franklin Robotics founder Joe Jones developed the Roomba vacuum and started Harvest Automation, developing robotics for the greenhouse and warehouse industries. Equipped with a mini string trimmer, his new product slices away newly emerged weeds before they can become a problem.
    “We went with a trimmer to keep the Tertill small and safe,” says Rory MacKean, CEO, Franklin Robotics. “The sensor on the front of the Tertill detects a weed and turns on the trimmer. It gets up to speed fast.”
    The touch sensitive Tertill shies away from plants taller than itself as it works its way around the garden. The wheeled unit is still in the prototype stage. The current design weighs less than 2 lbs. Cross ridges on the wheels pull it through the garden. An onboard battery is recharged by a solar panel on the Tertill’s roof.
    “It is designed to be outside all the time, probably running an hour and a half out of each day and powering up the rest of the time,” says MacKean. “It should cover all of a 150 to 200-sq. ft. area every couple days. It doesn’t move fast, but it doesn’t have to.”
    The controller uses proprietary algorithms to ensure the Tertill gets to the weeds. MacKean explains that it has a built-in penalty if it drives into larger plants several times. This helps it maintain a random pattern over the garden.
    The first working prototype was tested in gardens in 2016. MacKean plans to have several units out for consumer testing in 2017. The company is planning a crowd-funding campaign prior to commercial production for the 2018 gardening season. Initial sales will be online, direct from the company.
    “We’ll see where it goes from there with catalog or garden center sales,” says MacKean.
    If well received, the next step will be a Tertill for commercial gardeners and perhaps eventually for full-scale farming. The company has indicated the weeder is just a first step, with soil and plant health sensing down the road.
    “We learned a lot developing the Tertill, which will help us scale up to more commercial applications,” says MacKean. “We are looking at it first as a weeder and then will evaluate other aspects of what it could sense that you can’t sense conveniently in any other way.”
    Prices for the Tertill are still being worked out. MacKean expects it to sell for between $250 and $300. You can see a video of it in action at www.farmshow.com.

    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Franklin Robotics, 85 Rangeway Rd., Building 3 - Suite 250, North Billerica, Mass. 01862 (ph 617 513-7666; rory@franklinrobotics.com; www.franklinrobotics.com).

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2017 - Volume #41, Issue #1