The Farm Arm: Prosthetic Adapter for Agricultural Machinery

Presenter: Andrew Waite

Research Category: Engineering and Technology
Student Type: Undergraduate
PI: Andrew Gouldstone

The Farm Arm device is a rugged, task-specific prosthetic adapter that enables agricultural workers to operate the primary controls of heavy machinery.  General use prosthetics are often insufficiently functional and durable for amputees who perform manual labor.  Advanced bionics are expensive, delicate, and heavy.  Our solution eases task completion, increases worker safety, and extends device lifetime over commercially available prosthetics.  While the concept is applicable to controls for any heavy machinery, this specific design is intended for agricultural applications.

Assisted tractor control is accomplished with a terminal device attached to the user’s prosthetic socket and a set of adapters installed on the most frequently used controls.  The terminal device and adapters consist of non-locking mating surfaces that enable the amputee user to independently and reversibly engage each control.  This design eliminates the need for a grasping mechanism and minimizes device complexity.  The terminal device is universal for users, and the adapters are custom-installed for specific machine controls.  The solution is designed for safety, ergonomics, functionality in harsh environments, and long term wear resistance.

We have built a few prototypes and performed design validation testing.  Our most recent prototype was demonstrated by a unilateral upper extremity amputee on his farm in Maine.  We have iterated the different components for manufacturability and received quotes from domestic and foreign manufacturers.  A provisional patent was filed on this design, and we are currently moving forwards towards commercialization.  Keep up with our progress at thefarmarm.org.