Agriculture really has several different sectors. Grain farming is very automated. It takes very few people to do that type of farming. Overall, in the US, only 1% of the population is involved in agriculture. This does not include food processing. The number only ten years ago was 5%. Tractors and combines dive themselves. Combines have real time yield meters so that a field can be completely characterized during harvest and next year's planting planned.
It is in the fruit an vegetable farming area that the problem lies. This is a much different type of agriculture. Seeing some of the robotics techniques being applied to this area gives me some expectation that a similar level of automation will come to this area as well.
Agreed, naperlou. We've been seeing driverless tractors in agriculture for at least five years (see below). Now, as Liz is showing here, we're taking the next step and monitoring the crops with robots.
Chuck, I was literally just out picking raspberries. I cannot imagine how one would automate that. It is a bear. I told my son, who was picking with me, that we would have to re-engineer the plants to make it easier. I can see picking fruit off of trees, but bushes...
Thanks for the perspective, naperlou, and you're right--it's the jobs where fruit and vegetables needed to be individually harvested and picked that is lacking in labor, which is why researchers are focusing on these areas for robotic help. Although as another reader pointed out, robots also could displace the people that still want to do these jobs.
Thanks, Elizabeth for sharing such an interesting article. It is good to see the research that is directly targeting the need of the farmers and helping the agriculture industry as a whole. But I hope they are also making an effort to make the robots robust and resilient for harsh conditions as well, like under the rain storm and windy conditions, since they aim to monitor the farm. It is always satisfactory to add such a safety factor in the technology.
Thanks Elizebeth for such an interesting post , Currently a number of researches are in process regarding the application of Robots in agriculture industry as this is the only industry in which robotic application is lacking . I guess in developing countries like India and Brazil even farmers are interested in using agricultural robots for fruit picking , animal maintanance and etc. Agricultural robots can be used in weed control, spraying of pesticides,picking of fruits/vegetables , monitoring the farm and so on .
Every technology has its pros and cons no technology is free of side effects but what we have to measure is whether advantages are more or disadvantages are more and to which extent . Robots in agriculture also some advanatges and disadvanates
1.It reduces the cost as the monthly salary of the employee gets cut down
2. More availability time . no breaks required by the robot
3.More work done in less time.
4. It can easliy work around trees, plants without any issue of disturbance.
1. One major disadvantage is liability issue as its a driverless machine and it changes the concept of farming as well .
2. Agriculture usually require human interaction but if we use robots then it will change the culture of agriculture
It is nice that you have classified the pros and cons directly, I'd like to add one more disadvantage of robots in the field, it is that it requires high initial investment, which if not returned in the due time can put the agriculture industry in loss. So the calculations have to be worked out before installing the robots for the farm, to see if they are suitable for that farm.
That's a good perspective as well, talmoortariq. The financial aspect of this is probably even more important than the technological aspect, but I imagine before they would be used that return on investment would somehow be factored into the equation. I guess it would be hard to judge for something so new, but I am sure there is a way to do it.
Elizabeth, great article. Anything that is improving or aiding in more output for farmers is not only good, but necessary I think. With the growing population...we need to somehow someway produce more food. Every step towards that is a good one!
I feel this is a great use of robots. The only draw back is the sensors and the AI, however both are advancing quickly. I remember seeing and article about a robotic hand that used a puff of air to test the ripeness of peaches. It might be worth revisiting.
I was quite a fan of SF in the 1970's...this pair of agricultural robots is a bit spooky for those of us that remember "Silent Running". In that film, most of the crop tending on the spaceship was done by a couple of robots.