"We are preparing to launch Phoenix, a UV-C robot based on our autonomous modular robotic platform, designed to combat powdery mildew and other fungi in greenhouses. We see Phoenix providing value for crops such as cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, and potentially cannabis," says Robert Vahedi, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at Advanced Intelligent Systems (AIS).
AIS is a Canadian custom robotics engineering firm that develops autonomous modular solutions to address labor and other cost challenges in agriculture. While AIS is able to produce customer-ready products, its core strategy is to enable other businesses that want autonomous robotic solutions to reduce their development cost, time, and risk, by offering a deep library of software and hardware modules that AIS can readily customize to suit specific requirements.
Now, the company is ready to bring its Phoenix platform to market to specifically address the autonomous treatment of fungi in vegetable horticulture.
"It's been known for some time that UV-C radiation can be helpful against fungi, but the problem was working out how to apply it and what the environment would look like when you want to use it efficiently. With Phoenix, we can apply it autonomously and let the robot work at night from row to row. With our remote teleoperation capability, we can also visually diagnose issues the robot may encounter and, if possible, navigate it around obstacles or modify the robot's mission," explains Robert.
Phoenix has been trialed at a greenhouse research facility at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Langley, British Columbia, as well as in some local commercial cucumber and tomato greenhouses. As Robert explains, the variability in the growth pattern of greenhouse crops means that Phoenix may need some customization to accommodate specific crops. The first version of Phoenix is adapted to crops up to 2 meters tall, and AIS is working on increasing the height as necessary for vine crops. The company is also developing iterations that are to increase UV-C effectiveness on the plants.
With support from the Government of British Columbia, Advanced Intelligent Systems will be attending 2022 GreenTech in Amsterdam and will bring its first version of Phoenix for display and demo. The AIS team is eager to meet with distributors, growers, and investors to discuss the Phoenix platform as well as AIS' suite of agricultural robots and design capabilities.
"When we launched the company eight years ago, robots were like science fiction for these applications. Since then, the market has totally changed as the technology evolves, the labor cost keeps increasing, and the market requirement for fully autonomous solutions grows – and custom autonomous robotic solutions are what we do," says Robert.