Introduction to Sparky the FarmDogg


Hello DIY Drones community!

I am Melissa Brandao, creator of the FarmDogg and Founder/CEO of Rogue Rovers. We're based in Southern Oregon in the amazing Rogue Valley. This is really new for me, but I am really happy to be a part of this DIY drone community. Sharing is exciting and scary all at the same time but, I got some encouraging words from one of the most amazing individuals in tech today--Chris Anderson of 3D so here we go!!


The FarmDogg is an all terrain, electric, semi-autonomous vehicle for specialty farming, This is our prototype Sparky.

 "Sparky" was just made his SF debut the MakerCon event this week.

I'm always happy to expound on why we are building Sparky--but to keep it short and sweet. Ag vehicles, tractors, ATVs are ridiculously dangerous and haven't seen any real innovation in design since they were created. In the case of the tractor you only need watch tractor fails on youtube to know that there's a big problem. It's not just the structural soundness it's the fact that farmers work on and off these machines and in close proximity. Multitasking in a car is never a good idea but we do it with some level of confidence knowing that 99.9% of the time the surface is steady and the car is designed for smooth straight and fast.

In farming you face a wide array of multitasking in ever-changing envrionments--operating equipment, checking plants, human interaction with the machines-obstacles, terrain changes, etc.

Likewise with ATVs/Quads which have become the ubiquitous machine of choice for many farmers as the rows between crops get narrower are heavily used and not really that right for the job.

ATVs emerged from motorcycles--a la the 3-wheeler, but that straddle seating design has remained even into four wheels. The high center of gravity, short wheelbase and track and continued increase in overall weight combined with that straddle seating design makes it nearly IMPOSSIBLE to free yourself if you get into trouble and feel the vehicle start to go. When the ATVs get loaded up with equipment in front and rear that difficulty just increases exponentially.3689650598?profile=original

Anyway, this was the thinking behind the FarmDogg. Make something better--safer, more sustainable and then add a bunch of smart systems so that we can help to improve farm efficiency and safety at the same time!!

We built the FarmDogg from the ground up as an all electric vehicle so we could

1) entirely control the packaging design (ie. eliminate the straddle seating)

2) entirely control the powertrain (stabilize speeds, robotize it)

3) improve accuracy of data collection by reducing noise, emissions, vibration

4) modular-ize the design so that we can provide open source design to farmers that want to build their own racking

Sparky currently has:

-2 KLD hub motors in the rear with 10Kw of power.

-2 KLD 3.2 kwhr batteries on board

-2 sevcon Gen 4 controllers

-and a lot of other bits and pieces like 12volt, USB, 120 volt charging, waterproof handsfree bluetooth audio (a crowd fav--it's way better listening to music than an engine for hours on hours)

Now that the event is over Sparky is heading back into the garage for some well needed updates and to start working on the robotics integration. First we're replacing the existing motorcycle steering with a cool little Formula 1 steering system we are designing with the use of the original modifications and engineering.

We'll be adding:

-sevcon auto steer

-honda odyssey fl250 steering which we're modding to include throttle, etc

-new steering mechanism

We've got some work on the front end to plan for hub motors for the all 4WD version.

We're going to use the ardu-pilot for rovers and I'm sure we'll have some tweaking to do between analog and digital com via CAN-Bus. 

We're also going to bring in some audio commands because of our whole "doggnition" thing, which you can read more about on our website--and I'll write about later...

Please feel free to share and discuss. I'll be posting more updates as we get going--feel free to contact me we're on twitter @roguerovers facebook and instagram too with the same moniker roguerovers 

(though I'm thinking i'll probably set up a page for sparky as he goes through this amazing transformation. 


Melissa Brandao

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  • I like this. ArduRover/Mission Planner could benefit from this. I think a critical feature for APM Rover to work in Ag is to be able to follow an AB line at a defined swath width and easy integration with RTK which I think is what we are seeing with piksi. I have not looked into APM rover for over a year so not sure where its at exactly but this and a couple other things has renewed my interest. Ill be watching.
  • Hi Tim, thank you! FarmDogg is initially focused on use in small and specialty farms--vineyards, orchards as well as ranching and dairy. That's where I spend the most time because they are all around us here in CA and OR. I've had keen interest from small organic farms too where they just need a helping hand to harvest once a week or so, but don't want the noisy ATVs. FarmDogg is really good with animals, due to the lack of noise.

  • As a business owner that utilizes a lot of ATVs in everyday field work, I've been wondering when a solution is coming to eliminate the need for a person. Nice to see progress on this.

    Is there any specific activity you are targeting?

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