Agricultural Applications

The interlock drive system allows for revolutionary new devices that prepare a seedbed and control weed and that are powered solely by renewable energy and without compacting the soil. To top it all, agriculture with such devices would not require herbicides. The youtube videos below demonstrate a number of working prototypes.

Recently we have been issued US patent 9,144,188 and US patent 9,945,832 for this new and useful invention.

Utopus with 1040 Watts Pv Panels

Powerfull device for weed control (4-5 cm depth), bean plantation

Shallow tillage for weed control

Tillage depth is some 4 cm. Power is provided by solar panels alone.

Utopus with narrow tines

This video shows how the interlock drive system uses relatively narrow spikes to pull a cultivator. There are only two tines of 10 mm diameter for every cultivator of over 46 cm.

Utopus weed control at 5 kilowatt-hour per hectare

This machine is 2m wide, 4m long, and has an overall speed of 200m/h at an electricity consumption of 200 Watt.

The machine needs 25 hours to cover one hectare, at an energy cost of 5 kWh.

Israeli Utopus measures soil temperature on-the-go

The thermometer is integrated with the anchor. One minute and 20 seconds into the clip you can see that the soil temperature is 17 ℃ (ambient air temperature is 14 ℃). A pair of alternating motions takes about 13 seconds, the anchor is stable in the ground for about 5 seconds.

This is the world's first tillage device that measures soil properties from a fixed point in the soil.

More on the Israeli Utopus

Israeli Utopus tills wet soil

It already rains for more than 24 hours, and the soil is wet. A tractor would slip, and would compact the soil. Utopus does not slip and does not compact.

More on the Israeli Utopus

)
Primary tillage to a depth of 20cm

Power is provided by an electric motor of 3kWh.

Two videos that demonstrate working capacity and tractive efficiency

The 3 chisels plow at 10cm depth. This is deeper than needed for weeding, but good in order to estimate machine capacity.

The model is powered by 2 solar panels of 130 Watt nominal output each. It is March, and it is partially cloudy, so expect no more than 200 Watt of total power.

The cogwheel travels 220 cm along the chain. Of that, 10 to 20 cm are lost when placing the anchors, so a little more than 200 cm is tilled for each alternating motion. An alternating motion takes about 20 seconds, so the overall speed is 3 meters per minute, 180 meters per hour.

Of the 20 seconds, about 1 second is spent on reversing the motor directon and 1.5 second on placing the anchors. While placing the anchors, the anchors move backwards up to 5 cm, while the opposite chisels move forward some 10 cm. We conclude that these 5 cm of backward motion indicate that tractive efficiency is better than 97%. Compare this to the tractive efficiency of a wheeled tractor, which is 70% .

If this machine is used for seedbed preparation, without crop, and with the three chisels placed 15cm apart, field capacity would be 0.8 hectars (2 acres) per hour.



Utopus simulator

The Real-Time Systems Group at the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany has agreed to develop autonomous path following for Utopus. The simulation on the left is part of this effort.

Wind powered prototype
Early prototype, powered by power take-off

This video was taken while experimenting with a design for primary tillage. The tractor provides power only over via the take-off. It does not pull.

Explanation of the design, in Spanish

Without weed control, cash crop has to compete with wild plants for light, water, and nutrients. Historically, weed control combined mechanical weed removal with management techniques like crop rotation. Modern agriculture relies heavily on herbicides to cut labour costs and to allow repeated planting of high value cash crops.

Food security cannot dependent on herbicides. Herbicides are used in enormous and ever increasing quanities, damaging the ecosystem and reducing biodiversity far beyond their immediate field of application. Herbicides cannot be effective indefinitely, as weeds can and will evolve resistance. Ecolological agriculture avoids most herbicides, but does not offer a satisfactory alternative, which affects productivity. See here for the position of the European Commission on herbicides.

Mechanical weeding is energy intensive and requires a high degree of precision. Weed control by tractor consumes energy, such that ecological agriculture which uses it ironically has a larger carbon footprint. The use of horse and ox-drawn equipment for weed control requires such a high degree of skill and physical ability that it has little economic advantage over weed control by hand.

Without herbicides, mechanical weeding is only necessary when the cash crop is small, as a larger crop does not allow the weeds to grow. Depending on the crop, mechanical weeding should to be applied in intervals of between three and six weeks, up to three times between planting and harvest. In some climates, mechanical weeding also loosens the top soil, disrupting the capillary forces in the upper soil layer and preserving humidity.