Thorvald is a lightweight module based and flexible robot made to do a variety of tasks on a farm or in a greenhouse. Thorvald was developed at the Norwegian Life Science University (NMBU) by professor Paal J. From and his robotics team. Thorvald ‘works’ for the company Saga Robotics AS.
Over time, Thorvald will be able to perform a range of tasks on a farm. The first commercial offer will be UV-treatment of plants against mildew and transportation of cases to support human pickers/harvesters in the field.
Because of the lightweight construction, the robot will not compact the soil while at work, freeing land for productive use. At the same time, it will be able to perform tasks that will improve both growing conditions, reduce costs, and
improve the environment. For instance, the robot will soon be able to do mechanical weeding with a set of mechanical weeding arms governed by cameras using camera vision to distinguish weed and productive plants.
Mechanical weeding reduces the need for spraying. As Thorvald is working along the plants, he will also collect data on plant health and growth as well as growing conditions. We will use these data to predict plant growth and disease outbreaks, which will be useful for the farmers in the planning of their operation. The robot will make farming more knowledge intensive, do jobs that up until now have not been possible, and automate other tasks. We are looking to an agricultural industry with larger flexibility and lower risk in daily operation. We believe that smaller farms will become more profitable.
The company has its financing through public grants from Innovation Norway, Innovate UK, the Norwegian research Council, and a group of private investors. The team: Professor Pål Johan From, head of the robotics group at the Norwegian Life Science University. PhD-student Lars Grimstad, who has headed the mechanical work and has programmed the robot’s autonomy. Dr.oecon Ellen Altenborg, COO, who leads the commercialization of the company. The company employs 6 engineers and specialists.
Behind the commercial activities of Saga Robotics is a group of 30 scientists – PhD students and postdocs – at the Norwegian University of Life Science and University of Lincoln, all working on the development of the robot platform, the autonomy and navigation, the robot’s interaction with humans, weeding and picking of berries, prevention of plant diseases, and more.