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Design of a flagella-propelled bio-inspired submersible robot for hydroponic production and irrigation system inspection

Fulya Baysal-Gurel: Tennessee State University

<div>The goal of this research is to design and optimize a flagella-propelled bio-inspired submersible robot that can operate in hydroponic systems to assess the root zone health of individual plants and operate in irrigation pipes to detect leaks by data fusion and image processing techniques. In recent years, hydroponic farming has experienced exponential growth due to several factors including rural land scarcity and increasing demand for food. Hydroponic production requires a high degree of monitoring, maintenance and precise control of several factors to be successful. Root diseases such as <em>Pythium</em> occur in all types of hydroponic systems. Root diseases are easily detected in solution culture systems as the roots can be seen and disease development on the roots is often noticed before symptoms are visible in plant shoots. Nevertheless, root assessment by the growers is time consuming and may stress or damage the plants. Also, water leak detection for underground irrigation systems is time consuming. The research team designed a flagella-propelled submersible inspection robot and verified its maneuverability and operability under/around/through plant roots autonomously and through the irrigation pipes. Future studies will be on evaluation of robot performance for early determination of stress conditions (root rot etc.) in hydroponic systems, as well as determination of leaks in irrigation pipes.</div>