Zene Krige Trax

  • Tauira / Student
    Zene Krige
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Yueyun Song, Rodney Adank, Lyn Garrett, Jason Mitchell

Trax is an autonomous ground vehicle that spots-sprays weeds on agricultural land. Designed with farmers in mind, Trax aims to minimise herbicide use while effectively suppressing weeds.

Currently, broad-spectrum spraying causes excessive amounts of herbicide to enter the environment , causing herbicide resistance over time. Weeds outcompete grass for nutrients, sunlight and water, resulting in less productive pasture for livestock. Existing methods of treatment are time-consuming for farmers and costly on a seasonal basis, and extended exposure to chemicals have been linked to some health concerns. Weeds affect pasture productivity with an annual cost of $165.79 million in New Zealand, and require early detection and eradication before more intensive effort is required to eradicate them and they spread their seeds, starting the next cycle.

Trax reduces the amount of herbicide being applied through the use of hyper-spectral cameras that identify weeds (a proven technology) and target the centre of the weed for maximum accuracy and effectiveness. Able to hold three different herbicides, Trax can use the correct mixture for different weeds. Trax also reports the location of weeds within a paddock so farmers can make informed decisions about pasture management.

An investigation into the form of agricultural devices led me to explore what the future of these devices looks like with usability, function, and sustainability in manufacture and being at the forefront of the design challenge. This design combines key user insights with emerging technology, and the prototyping process allowed exploration around how farmers engage with autonomous devices and the personal connection humans can form with inanimate objects. I believe this design represents the value design brings to an industry driven by engineering and would have a profound impact on the way we treat weeds on agricultural land.

The design considers the cradle to cradle lifecycle and is manufactured to have replaceable parts opposed to replacing the whole vehicle. Materials consider both performance and sustainability, where recycled HDPE has good chemical resistance. Reducing the amount of chemicals entering our environment is a crucial step towards more sustainable practise.