Pipe rail cart subsystem for automated cucumber harvesting

Project background

Cucumber harvesting project
The Automation group at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre is currently developing an automated cucumber harvesting machine for application in greenhouse environments. The system is comprised of a variety of imaging sensors, electronics, manipulator and end-effector that traverse greenhouse environments for the purpose of fruit harvesting. During harvesting operations, the system is required to traverse on rails already installed on the ground between rows of plants. When not harvesting, the system is required to traverse along flat concrete flooring. This is the standard approach for most vegetable greenhouses, where manual push-carts and electric trolleys are designed to operate on flat concrete flooring as well as on rail systems. Heating pipes installed along the floor between rows of plants serve a dual purpose as rails for these carts and trolleys are often referred to as “pipe-rails”.

Pipe rail cart system
The pipe rail cart subsystem is comprised of the overall conveyance system capable of traversing both flat concrete flooring and pipe rails as well as all the requisite support materials and mounting points for onboard equipment (sensors, manipulator, electronics, etc.), control electronics, communications, computing, power supply, etc. The cart interfaces with the overall control systems will provide the automated machine with the ability to govern the cart via software.

Project scope
The overall scope of this project to provide the entirety of the cart system including all requisite electronics, mechanical systems and software to allow the cart to move autonomously through a greenhouse space based on software instructions provided by the overall control system. The technical scope of the project includes (but is not limited to):

  • Design, manufacturing and assembly of all requisite components for the autonomous pipe rail cart:
    • Governing software
    • Communication interface for system controller
    • Electromechanical systems
    • Mechanical systems
    • Mechanical mounting points for system components:
      • Electronics
      • Sensors
      • Manipulator
      • Cabling
      • Other Items
    • Safety requirements and required certifications
  • Any additional items or tasks not mentioned.

Note that the technical scope of the work is intended to be flexible. At the very minimum, the required deliverable is a pipe rail cart that may be controlled (forward/reverse speed) manually using standard control interfaces (buttons, dials, etc.) as well as controlled via computer connection (over WiFi, Ethernet, etc.). Additional capabilities such as dead-reckoning localization via sensors (wheel encoders, tracking cameras, etc.), a more complete simultaneous localization and mapping capability, autonomous traversing with obstacle avoidance and so on, may be negotiated based on time and budget constraints.

Additional information can be found by clicking on the RFP document button.



Selection process

Bidders must supply at minimum the following information and documentation to be eligible:

  • Project work structure breakdown
  • Project timeline and milestones
  • Proposed project personnel
  • Project budget (effort, prototype equipment, consumables)
  • Conceptual design:
    • Mechanical
    • Software
    • Control
    • Electrical
  • Examples of similar past projects

Please submit a proposal that includes various levels of complexity and capability as described in the scope of the RFP document above (section 2) and indicating cost and timeline for each:

  • Basic pipe rail cart with manual and computer control of forward/reverse speed on pipes, power supply, communications, etc.
  • Additional dead-reckoning localization capability
  • Additional full simultaneous localization and mapping capability
  • Additional autonomous guidance, navigation and control capability
  • Additional autonomous obstacle avoidance capability
  • Any other additional features that may be desirable

The RFP submission deadline is January 4, 2021 and can be emailed to:
Kyle Crawford

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