Awaji Youth Federation’s (AYF) robotics project is focused on delivering an important message – robots are here, and they’re not as expensive as you might think. Robotics and automation have been changing the landscape of industry after industry – and yet, in the field of agriculture, much remains the same.

In Awaji, you will find hard-working farmers using the same techniques that have been used for decades. These labour-intensive farming practices can put unnecessary strain on the health of farmers and limit their production capacity. So why not turn to automated systems?  

Some common misconceptions are that an automated robotics system is too complicated for the average person to implement, or that the cost of such a system would be extravagant. The AYF robotics project is here to show people that simply isn’t the case. 

The project is led by this year’s AYF fellow Nizar Mhatli from Tunisia. Nizar has a passion for robotics, which led him to enroll in ESPRIT: a private school focused on engineering in Tunis. He achieved a Master’s in Electromechanical Engineering, specialising in Mechatronics.  Nizar has worked on many projects involving artificial intelligence, robotics and embedded systems in the fields of agriculture, home automation and industrial improvement. 

His first project was a successful prototype of an automated irrigation system for soil-based crops and plants. The system automatically detects soil moisture levels, air humidity, and temperature through sensors then releases water when required. With the installation of the system, the water irrigation requires almost no human labour to operate, except for the occasional need to refill the water reserve tank. The system allows for the collection of crop-related data, such as air temperature, soil moisture, mineral and pH levels over an extended period of time. 

Don’t worry if this is all starting to sound a little too complex or expensive to do yourself – it’s not. Nizar built the system in less than five days with a budget of only 4,000 yen, and wrote the computer code to allow the system to run properly by himself. He assured us that, given the right materials and code, anyone could build a similar system. 

Nizar hopes to demonstrate the benefits of these robotic irrigation systems to local farmers which include reduction to water waste due to more precise imigration, eliminating labor demands for an aging population in Japan, and opportunity for local farmers to scale their levels of production in an effective manner. The development of robotic systems will continue to grow in importance as the world moves further towards automation and the development of artificial intelligence.  Through Nizar’s work at AYF, we hope to demonstrate how this technology will not only be implemented in the near future across industries, but also how it will improve the daily lives of local people.