According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, over 70% of the world's food needs are met by large and small farms. For the agriculture industry to keep up with growing demand and increase output, the need for robotic farming and automation in farming operations has become critical. The use of electric linear actuators supports automated agricultural applications by supplying cost-effective motion control in numerous processes.
Benefits of Electric Linear Actuators and Lead Screws in Agriculture
- Design Flexibility – Electric linear actuators combined with lead screws can be designed in multiple sizes and power ranges while fitting in smaller footprints. The actuators can also be customized to provide seamless interaction with the control systems of your application.
- Maintenance - Electric linear actuators reduce the number of components needed for operation and are low to no maintenance, reducing downtime and providing significant cost savings. Electric linear actuators also require less power to operate.
- Accuracy – When precision matters, electric linear actuators from Helix Linear Technologies deliver accurate movement resulting in reduced waste and higher yields.
- Safety – Hydraulic and pneumatic actuators can rupture or leak, posing environmental and contamination safety concerns, especially in food handling applications. The use of electric linear actuators eliminates this safety risk.
- Cleaner – Numerous agricultural applications rely on compressed air. Failures in these systems can cause that compressed air to blow contaminants into the environment, which is unsuitable for food production and livestock. However, electric linear actuators use electricity and are clean and efficient.
Agricultural Applications Supported by Electric Linear Actuators
- Robotic Harvesting – Robotic harvesting robots are equipped with electric linear actuators extending and retracting harvesting arms or operating harvesting blades in a looping motion.
- Weeding Robots – Electric linear actuators control steering and lifting mechanisms in weeding robots allowing them to move with precision.
- Robotic Pollination – Robotic pollination robots gently agitate or brush pollen from individual flowers to other plants. These robots are used in contained greenhouse applications or in areas where natural pollinators are no longer abundant. This technology relies heavily on electric linear actuators to accurately position itself at each bloom.
- Agricultural Drones– Agricultural drones reduce the time and costs associated with data collection and crop analysis. These drones inspect crops, covering large expanses of acreage in short periods. The accurate control and positioning required for drone flight are made possible with lead screws and micro linear actuators. Actuators are also used for automated door opening and closing for in-field drone housing and launch applications.
- Plant Spacing Robots (nursery applications) – Plant spacing robots move and space plants in hexagonal spacing patterns in greenhouses and nurseries, maximizing space and increasing plant count. Electric linear actuators are utilized for positioning and maneuverability.
- Spreaders – Spreaders are commonly used for spreading seeds, lime, fertilizer, sand, and ice melt. Electric linear actuators combined with a control system and potentiometer allow the operator to dispense the right amount of material accurately.
- Opening and Closing of Livestock Doors – Electric linear actuators allow barn or pen doors to open and close automatically. The actuator converts the rotational motion of the motor into linear motion to provide both push and pull movements.
- Ventilation Systems – Electric linear actuators allow precise control of airflow and temperature in multiple agricultural environments including storage, greenhouse, and livestock environments.
- Automated Feed Dispensers – Accurate food dispensing is essential to livestock health. When electric linear actuators are utilized, feed gates open and close with precision, accurately dispensing the correct amount of food. This results in a reduction of food waste and overall cost savings.
- Spraying – Fluid dispensing accuracy is necessary for all spraying applications, including field spraying and greenhouse spraying applications. Sprayers fitted with electric linear actuators provide precise, repeatable spraying delivery.
- Milking Robots – These machines are used in large dairy farms for milking cows. The cows are milked using a linear actuator-controlled mechanical arm.
Electric linear actuators are an excellent choice when considering automation applications in the agricultural industry. Electric linear actuators offer numerous benefits and can make large volume work more manageable. The engineering department at Helix Linear Technologies will work with you to customize a linear actuator and matching lead screw to increase production, lessen downtime, and eliminate waste in your agricultural processes.
Additional Reading Suggestions
Stepper Motor Linear Actuators: 2.1v - 12v Actuator Options
Top 10 Benefits of an Electric Linear Actuator
The Four Most Common Uses of Electric Linear Actuators