Welcome to Team Mantis's website, home of our automated asparagus harvester.
The MANTIS THRASHER automated asparagus identification and harvesting system consists of a mobile platform retrofitted with a manipulator arm and LIDAR sensor suite. The main function of the system is the autonomous harvesting of asparagus spears. This system integrates many features not seen in competing systems. The system utilizes a Hokuyo LIDAR sensor to sense the location of asparagus spears for harvesting. The placement of the LIDAR scanner is such that the system can also differentiate ripe asparagus stalks from unripe stalks by height. Ripe and unripe asparagus stalks grow in close temporal and spatial proximity, so the selective nature of the system is a necessity to maximize the yield of the crop. The manipulator arm is fitted with a gripping and cutting tool to harvest the asparagus. The cutting mechanism cuts the asparagus at ground level, after which the gripping system transports the asparagus back to the mobility platform. The stalks are then stored onboard in a hopper until they can be later removed. The system is designed to be completely autonomous, requiring only minimal user input to start and control the system.
MANTIS is an acronym. It stands for:
System Overview Video
The video below showcases the progress made on the MANTIS asparagus harvester, over the course of the 2012 - 2013 school year. It gives a basic understanding of what the system does.
There are a few reasons why harvesting asparagus is a crop ideal for autonomous "smart" mechanization, that other crops do not possess.
Asparagus is a unique crop that possess many unusual traits. It cannot normally be harvested year round; asparagus is harvested seasonally. The beginning of the asparagus season is not necessarily predictable; it depends entirely on the weather.
Additionally, in general, it is one of the first crops to be harvested, but is typically out-of-season multiple weeks before any other major crops. Because of this, labor for harvesting asparagus is generally scarce, and it can be relatively difficult to find labor in the short window that a farmer has for harvesting. If a farmer truly wants to get the highest yield from his asparagus crop, he or she needs to have laborers available on-demand.