Woo Soo Kim | Empowering Agriculture and Food Security Through 3D Printing
Equity + Justice, Climate + Environment, 2023, PFL 2023-2024, President's Faculty Lectures
This talk discussed cutting-edge innovations poised to revolutionize the agricultural landscape. We journeyed into the future, where 3D printing technologies serve as critical elements for transformative change. We discovered the potential of 3D printed environmental sensors, poised to optimize resource allocation and enhance crop yield; we explore the realm of 3D printed end effectors, which are set to revolutionize fruit picking through robotic precision.
Moreover, we delved into the realm of 3D printed conductive wireless sensors, revolutionizing the Internet of Things in farming and aiding in sustainable resource management. The discussion wouldn't have been complete without a spotlight on 3D printed drones, heralding a new era of precision agriculture and innovative soil and crop management techniques.
Thank you to those who joined us September 27th as we unfolded a future where 3D printing propels agriculture into a more sustainable, productive, and secure paradigm.
— Woo Soo Kim
8888 University Drive W., Burnaby
BC, V5A 1S6
By Nina Lin, Undergraduate student at SFU Mechatronic Systems Engineering
In Dr. Woo Soo Kim’s lecture “Empowering Agriculture and Food Security Through 3D Printing”, he shed light on the global climate challenges affecting agriculture and shared potential technical solutions supporting food security through the utilization of 3D printed systems within his research lab.
As the climate crisis worsens, dryer summers and wetter springs will greatly reduce the productivity, profitability and competitiveness of Canadian famers adhering to conventional agricultural practices. Following this lecture, my main takeaway was the important concept of “Precision Agriculture” presented by Dr. Kim. In short, precision agriculture encompasses the data collection of various performance metrics in agriculture, such as soil, plant, and air conditions. Then, the data is analyzed using trained or data-driven models to predict information regarding plant growth. I am convinced that the adoption of precision agriculture holds immense promise for successful and long-lasting farming practices.
In one of the technologies shared by Dr. Kim, a robot arm with sensor needle array was used to detect the plant’s electrophysiology. This is an example of precision agriculture – robots are used to collect plant data which can be analyzed to deduce whether there is an insect infestation concern. For large farmlands, this data collection may take lots of time, labor and work to do manually so the technological solution would boost efficiency and increase productivity. Similarly, using a 3D printed arm to harvest fruits could be more efficient and cost-effective to the ripeness of a fruit would be determined before picking. Additionally, the use of origami-inspired architectural sensors at the robot’s fingertips allows for precise and careful grasping. Previously, I have worked on research supporting an architecture-based sensor and I was delighted to see its application in the agriculture industry.
Not only does technology boost efficiency and reduce labor management, but advanced technological solutions are also making their way into the agricultural sector to optimize production and enhance crop management. Dr. Kim’s expertise in 3D printing has yielded numerous applications in agriculture including soil monitoring, wind sensing, plant electrophysiology signal sensing, and harvesting. One particularly useful technique mentioned in the lecture was conductive ink printing on 3D printed objects. This allows signal detection at the robot arm’s fingertip and facilitates signal transmission with little to no wires. In a farming environment, particularly in very moist conditions, devices with reduced wiring would be highly beneficial.
Another advantage of 3D printed systems is its capability in generating complex designs with optimized material usage tailored to the mechanical requirements of a system or application. Objects that are 3D printed are also lightweight, especially if compared to metal machinery, making maneuvering them across farmland more convenient while conserving energy. According to Dr. Kim, the possibility of integrating 3D printed production directly to the field is highly anticipated since it would enable savings on production and delivery costs. Additionally, I learned that having 3D printable systems would allow freedom in creating highly customizable systems with lower turnaround times. For example, if a farmland setting or crop type changes, the 3D printed systems can be modified using design software and printed for immediate, rather than needing to place a custom order at a machinery manufacturer. Overall, 3D printed systems and electronics can be seamlessly integrated with central processing systems to provide farmers with real time and forecasted data, allowing them to make well-informed decisions and preparations.
Following the topic of precision agriculture, Dr. Kim addressed the shift from traditional, experience-based farming to data-driven, computer-aided farming. A key concern currently within the agricultural industry is the immanent loss of seasoned farmers, as approximately 40% of Canadian farmers are approaching retirement. As new farmers enter the industry, their inexperience poses a challenge to the entire agricultural industry. Learning the nuances of farming takes time and practice, but incorporation of data-driven farming could help mitigate the risk of losing valuable experience from seasoned farmers and reduce the pressure in seeking immediate labor to replace them.
Regardless of the industry, there will be resistance to technological innovations when first introduced. New technology, although useful and potentially valuable, can seem daunting and perhaps even frightening. However, I found it was inspiring to learn about the introduction of some of these technologies at Tea Creek Farm and their positive reception by the community. I like to think that this technology is not displacing the conventional practices but rather improving current methods to make farming easier, more efficient, and more resilient in the face of climate change. By working together, we can make a difference for B.C. and strive to ensure food security by preserving the agricultural industry in Canada.
Please note that the event took place at the The Presentation Studio (Applied Sciences Building - Room 10900) on the SFU Burnaby Campus (8888 University Dr W, Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6).
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SFU Burnaby is accessible by bus and car. Visit the Translink website for routes and schedules.
Washrooms are located on the first floor, with accessible stalls available. There is an elevator which can be used to access the lecture room.
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