Industrial Design for Agtech Companies | CSBP Detect.
Whistle provides Industrial Design for Agtech companies like CSBP Fertilisers in Western Australia, helping develop highly specialised devices and machinery.
The CSBP Detect represents a distinctive fusion of spectroscopy and machine learning, effectively measuring plant nitrogen levels to provide real-time nitrogen recommendations. This advanced crop monitoring tool, developed to help commercial growers optimise crop yield and improve sustainability, leverages data and powerful analytics to provide real-time fertiliser recommendations.
After years of research and development, building and testing the Detect platform, CSBP, the leading provider of fertilisers in Western Australia, turned to Whistle in 2018 to help design the commercial device for rollout to the wider grower community.
CSBP Detect was piloted during the 2020 and 2021 growing seasons, with grower feedback and season outcomes demonstrating its value in supporting decision-making. CSBP Detect is subject to global patent applications and is available exclusively to CSBP customers.
CSBP Fertilsers, 2022.
CSBP Detect’s hardware features a Near Infrared (NIR) spectrometer mounted within a portable, hand-held device. Early development on the project saw the design and build of a series of field test units (shown in the video following), designed to improve on the usability and validate the device design and function.
The device’s actuating lid was a key part of the hardware development. Designed from the ground up, the lid had several uniquely innovative features:
- A Spectralon reflective panel mounted behind sapphire glass. Spectralon is a fluoropolymer with the highest diffuse reflectance of any known material over the ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared regions of the spectrum.
- A floating, self-aligning inner lid assembly. Perfect alignment between the lid and the scanning window was critical for accurate scans. We created an inner lid assembly that floats within the outer lid to achieve correct self-alignment to ensure the plant material cannot be over compressed.
- A moulded, light proof seal to block out light between the lid and housing during scans.
Following a successful pilot program, the field test units were redesigned by Whistle Industrial Designers and Mechanical Engineers to create a hardware solution befitting the innovative technology housed within.
In bringing the design together, our designers imagined a precision machined aluminium unibody chassis, developed to provide a solid, high quality mounting point for all internal components including the spectrometer and the lid actuation mechanism. In using a single chassis, we were able to reduce tolerance stacks to ensure the spectrometer was always mounted accurately in relation to all other components, critically important for reliable and accurate scanning.
The hardware component of CSBP Detect was thoughtfully designed to address four key factors: form, function, safety, and quality, ensuring it meets end-users’ needs and delivers the required precision and accuracy for effective crop management.
Ergonomic considerations were a key focus in the design process. End-users must delicately manipulate plant matter and place it accurately across a small scanning window. The housing’s form and layout enable optimal placement using both thumb and forefinger. Various alternative layouts were presented to end-users for feedback during product development, ensuring the final design met their needs.
CSBP Detect is operated by CSBP’s agronomist and grower support teams, who travel to growers to provide expert advice and guidance. The hardware needed to convey a sense of precision, quality, and scientific accuracy. Inspiration was drawn from technical equipment and laboratory devices such as theodolites, DSLR cameras, and microscopes. The use of materials such as machined and anodized aluminum chassis, molded hard plastics, custom TPE seals, and precision-ground stainless steel components reflects this inspiration. Whilst also being suitable for the required low-volume production.
CSBP Detect has the potential to revolutionize crop management, with direct impacts on growers’ financial returns and the environment. Its launch demonstrates CSBP’s investment in design and innovation, positioning them at the forefront of their industry, with potential to deliver significant return on investment.
CSBP Detect showcases the power of design thinking in action. The careful consideration of form and function creates a powerful tool that meets end-users’ needs and delivers real-world impact.
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