Kentucky Patent of the Month – December 2022
Based in Appalachia, AppHarvest Technology, Inc. is a sustainable food company focused on developing and operating high-tech indoor farms to grow produce using sunshine, rainwater and up to 90% less water than open-field growing while producing yields up to 30 times that of traditional agriculture on the same amount of land without agricultural runoff. It takes serious innovation to generate this type of progress.
The company has been committed to research and development since their inception in 2017. Since then, they have worked diligently to develop the technology needed to empower nature. From a closed-loop rainwater system to hybrid lighting, the company has tackled every aspect of agriculture. As a result of this constant innovation, the company has been granted a new patent for their depth and vision sensors which support their indoor agricultural environments.
AppHarvest’s system uses Farming AI and Robotics to support the growth of crops. This requires the robots to sense and “see” the plant, however, sensing the actual shape, irregularity, and surface color and texture of a vine-grown or leafy crop is challenging. AppHarvest’s imaging system uses range imaging, ambient light and stereo cameras. The light is on a spectrum different from that of natural outdoor light. There are a set of spatially separated stereo cameras. The light and cameras illuminate the target plant in a non-uniform pattern including dot patterns. This dot pattern helps to enhance the camera’s stereo matching capabilities. The ambient light has a lower than average intensity and leads to a reliable depth map of an imaged-plant as the light filters through the cameras. Improving the imaging capabilities of the robotic assistants, such as the harvester, to better operate.
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