Ken Goldberg on Simulating Polyculture Farming

01 Mar, 2022

Ken Goldberg on Simulating Polyculture Farming

Ken Goldberg's latest article "Simulating Polyculture Farming to Learn Automation Policies for Plant Diversity and Precision Irrigation" was published on IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering this January! Co-authored with Yahav Avigal, William Wong, Mark Presten, Mark Theis, Shrey Aeron, Anna Deza, Satvik Sharma, Rishi Parikh, Sebastian Oehme. Stefano Carpin, Joshua H. Viers, and Stavros Vougioukas, the article details a simulator to study interplant dynamics.

According to Goldberg's definition, "Polyculture Farming" refers to the place where multiple crop species are grown simultaneously, and has the potential to reduce pesticide and water usage while improving the utilization of soil nutrients. However, it is much harder to automate polyculture than monoculture. To facilitate research, we present AlphaGardenSim, a fast, first-order, open-access polyculture farming simulator with single plant growth and irrigation models tuned using real-world measurements. AlphaGardenSim can be used for policy learning as it simulates inter-plant dynamics, including light and water competition between plants in close proximity and approximates growth in a real greenhouse garden at 25,000x the speed of natural growth. This paper extends earlier work with a new action space that includes planting, which dynamically finds new seed locations that increase resources utilization, and an adaptive sampling technique to reduce the number of actions taken at each timestep without affecting performance. We also evaluate other automation policies using a novel metric that combines plant diversity and canopy coverage.

To read the full article, please visit here!