Force-multiplying robots translate to labor savings and greater productivity in nurseries

Whether a nursery is growing trees, shrubs or flowers, operations are demanding and involve significant amounts of manual labor. Workers must lift and move heavy bags of dirt, mulch, fertilizer and more. Nurseries must relocate plants as they grow and stage them for distribution. Many plants require pest control and/or artificial pollination. Some operators must patrol to prevent theft and damage of high-value crops. Combined, these efforts contribute to increasingly high labor costs.

But what if nursery owners could turn to advanced robotics as a solution to many of these operational necessities? Introducing Burro, a versatile, collaborative and multi-use mobile robot designed to mitigate labor costs and improve operational productivity in agriculture farming.

Capabilities in nursery settings
As an intelligent robot powered by AI and outfitted with computer vision, Burro can perform multiple autonomous tasks, including towing, carrying, scouting, patrolling and even mowing. Burro does this work in support of human laborers in nurseries and greenhouses, often increasing productivity by 40 percent or more.

Burro can also carry other technologies on board for a variety of new applications. As two examples of this, the company recently partnered with Bitwise Agronomy and BloomX to equip Burro with crop-scouting and pollination technologies.

Because Burro is designed to safely carry up to 500 lbs. in both indoor and outdoor settings, workers no longer need to manually relocate heavy plants and supplies from point to point. Instead, they can add loads to Burro’s stable platform and autonomously navigate it to a predetermined drop zone with the touch of a button. Upon arrival, a waiting recipient can unload the cargo and return Burro for another trip. In addition to reducing the risk of worker injury from lifting and hauling, this automated support eliminates repeated walk times for workers between sites. Laborers can instead use the wait time to complete additional tasks for even greater productivity.

The autonomous routes Burro follows can be stored and shared across a fleet of robots, making daily deployment easy. Burro also features a battery life of eight to 10 hours (equating to around eight miles traversed), meaning the robots can work all day with laborers before requiring a charge. When they do require more power, Burro autonomously navigates to its charging station.

Burro’s on-board cameras also feed live footage to fleet managers to provide visibility while robots are in use. Managers can view real-time data on a user-friendly dashboard that includes stats such as locations of Burros, their operational statuses, how far each has traveled, what the utilization rates are for each and more.

Replacing conveyor belts
Nurseries often rely on conveyor belts to move plants from one site to another or to perform small-batch work. The downsides of conveyor belts are that they are heavy, cumbersome and can pose an injury risk to workers during set-up and break-down.

As a modern farming approach, Burros can immediately replace conveyor belts for rapid gains. Using Burros over conveyor systems increases plant movement by 28 percent. And several Burros working together are proven to move an average of 17 plants per minute versus just 13.3 per conveyor belt. As an added bonus, Burros won’t pinch fingers or cause back injuries like conveyor systems, and won’t block nursery access points with bulky infrastructure.

New features coming soon
As an innovative robotics developer, Burro is always adding new features to benefit industrial farming. One key feature for nurseries and greenhouses in development now is the ability to tow very heavy trailers. With an anticipated release in Q3 2023,, this feature will be part of an expanded towing package that will include a towing capacity of up to 5,000 lbs., with added balance weights and stability to ensure safety. It will also feature enhanced LiDAR-based computer vision to ensure Burro’s ability to safely stop while towing very heavy trailers. This package will also offer three times the battery capacity to ensure operational reliability even on the toughest work days. Watch for details to come.

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