The robot can be outfitted with multiple attachments such as a cell-sprayer that can spray pesticides or fertilizers and can even weed areas intertwined with the crops. It’s able to do so with the help of strategically positioned cameras that take pictures of the ground, which are then sent to an onboard computer that analyzes the images and identifies both the crops and weeds (programmed with 20 known species per geographic area).
Once the unwanted plants are identified, it can then spray an herbicide through a row of nozzles placed next to the cameras positioned behind the bot. The cameras look for the corresponding image and either open or close the nozzles based on the weeds' location. With a large range of add-on tools, this robot makes a perfect plant-nursing platform that’s able to keep plants healthy, one column at a time.
Robots are even being employed to harvest crops, further maximizing the efficiency associated with robotic farmers. One such robot is known as the Robotic Strawberry Harvester from Robotic Harvesting LLC. The mechanical farmhand is autonomous in the true sense of the word and is self-propelled, navigating and harvesting, and as the name suggests, is excellent in picking ripe strawberries. Robot harvesting outfitted the robot with a camera array capable of taking "stereovision" photos both above and below the plants leaves to collect data on fruit (whether it’s ripe or not), flower count, plant pathogens (diseases), and other items of interest.
The camera system can be reprogrammed to identify and collect data on a number of crops in 3D space (giving the robot the capability to see like humans) not just strawberries, and uses specialized software to discern whether the fruit is ripe. Once identified, the robot uses a three-pronged outfitted robotic arm to pick the fruit, which is then placed on a convenient tiny conveyor belt that drops the fruit off in a collection basket on top of the robot.
This may not seem like much, but the robot is capable of picking the fruit (tested in a controlled environment) in as little as two seconds. While you most likely won't see a fully functional efficient farm being run entirely by robots anytime in the next few years, it’s safe to say it certainly is a possibility in the near future. As more and more people populate the planet, using robotic farmers is certainly a viable option in cultivating, nurturing, and harvesting increased food crops in an efficient manner.