LSU students design ‘robotic arm’ to trap crawfish– could end the back-breaking work

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BATON ROUGE, La. LSU Biological and Agricultural Engineering students have designed a “robotic arm” for crawfish farming that could change the way crawfish are harvested for the first time in more than 100 years.

Typically, crawfish farmers work alone, each on a small skiff, manually baiting wire traps to attract crawfish in the shallow mud of the Atchafalaya Basin. When the crawfish come to the bait, the farmer will hoist the wire trap onto the boat, dump out the crawfish, and return the trap to the mud.

LSU Biological and Agriculture Engineering (BAE) Professor Chandra Theegala assembled a group of students to design a “miniature prototype” of a remote-controlled wire trap that could do the heavy lifting.

One of the students, senior Ben Thomas of Crowley, programmed, coded, and controlled the motion of a robotic arm that the students call a “harvesting arm.”

The harvesting arm is one-third the scale of a commerical crawfish trap and controlled by a Playstation 4 controller.

“The hope is to have it be entirely autonomous,” says Thomas of a potential full-scale harvesting arm, “able to align itself on a moving boat.”

According to the team’s test results, the design of the miniature harvesting arm was 87.78 percent reliable in pickup up traps at an average of 18.3 seconds, “roughly as fast as a person.”

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