Mr. Sherman, I agree completely with your comments. Robotic systems are fascinating but I do think application here would be very counterproductive for the reasons you have mentioned. It seems to be a miss-application of the technology. I can understand, to some extent, if hazerdous materials represented a great concern but do they? I know the project has not progressed far enough to "guestimate" a return on investment but it seems that would be considerable. I also feel that estimate, if including down time for repairs and maintenance, would be excessive. As you mention, there are some jobs people do much better than robotic systems and, I feel, this is one.
Thanks for your input TJ. Based on your description, that means a whole lot of work figuring designs that can stand up to condensation and have some sort of ruggedized aspect to withstand other weather conditions. Put that together with the accuracy requirement, and you have one tough development and design challenge.
notarboca, You bring up an interesting point about the hazardous conditions on earth and how these agricultural robotics can be used as experimental testbeds for deep space exploration of distant planet's terrains. The Mars Rover Curiousity could have been a prime candidate for such testing on earth.
@mrdon,beth-- you're absolutely right. The agricultural sector is rife with hazardous conditions: petro-chemical, pesticides, dust, and varied ranges of temperature and precipitation. No wonder DARPA and NASA have an interest. These Earthbound robotics experiments may serve as an incubator for future Mars and deep space missions.
I agree. Enviromental conditions can be quite harsh on both electronics and mechanics. One of the biggest challenges I see with the project is the robot's ability to survive enviromental and temperature changes. Automobiles is another good example of environmental obstacles the electronics and mechanics must overcome. I wish them well on their endeavors.
Growing up on a vegetable farm, I would have loved to have this robot. Lol. The farm I grow up on was small compared to the full-time/professional farmers, as farming wasn't my Dad's profession but his love for farming.
Harvesting is just one part of the growing process. I'm wondering if many farmers would find the robots feasible.
With manufacturing robots, you can plan your environment and allow for errors. With (i.e. fruit harvesting) it is totally unpredictable and has no room for errors - the mother of all challenges - Good Luck!
There are lots of people in the world who would gladly not only pick such "difficult" crops but tend them as well. They work cheaply, and are more skilful and more versatile than any robot can ever be. In a rational economy, if humans can do a job cheaper and better than a robot, humans would be hired to do it. Unfortunately in the US today, immigrant labor is a hot-button political issue, and it's become a huge burden to our agricultural industry. Polilticians and their constiuents insist that immigrant farm laborers are "stealing American jobs", and yet there are virtually no Americans who will do that sort of work for any price.
It would be a great irony if this political delusion drove us to build complicated, expensive, and unreliable robots to do a job that Mexicans or other foreigners could do much better and much more cheaply. As for the "sustainability" claim, what is more renewable and sustainable than human labor? There's also a bit of a social justice issue entangled with farm labor in that the laborers are usually from poor parts of the world and the money they send home from their jobs in rich countries helps equalize wealth worldwide.
A few countries have a problem with manual labor costing too much, whereas most countries have a problem with too many laborers and not enough work for them to do. Although designing robots is great fun, it makes more sense to let the people who need jobs go to the places where there labor is needed and do the work, than build robots to do that work, and leave the unemployed poor unemployed and poor.
Beth, you've nailed the difficult part exactly - the environment in which the picker robots will work. Add in moisture and colder temperatures and you will see condensation inside the electrical enclosures.
I've seen basic autmation equipment for packaging corn cobs after a season of use. The machinery looks like it's seen 20 years of hard use, not just one season.
Making the robot pick accurately is only one aspect of the whole problem.
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
In a bid to boost the viability of lithium-based electric car batteries, a team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed a chemistry that could possibly double an EV’s driving range while cutting its battery cost in half.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.