Robots, including aerial drones, are revolutionizing agriculture in the greenhouse, the nursery and especially in the open fields where most of the food in the world is grown, according to Frank Tobe, author of The Robot Report.
"Farmers, ranchers and growers the world over are transitioning to precision agricultural methods," Tobe told EE Times in advance of his exclusive report on agricultural robots, "Subdividing their acreage into many unique subplots—and in some cases right down to the individual plant, tree or animal—thereby enabling increased productivity, traceability and lower overall costs. Unmanned aerial vehicles are integral to the process and are being used to map, observe, sense and spray."
Here we review the unmanned vehicles, automated machinery and software enabling these new farming methods to farmers worldwide. View this potpourri of images as a slideshow, each image representing a whole family of robotic farming implements and methods.
Click on the image below to start the slideshow, which opens in a separate window in your browser.
The autonomous robot ADIGO makes it possible to streamline field trials where the goal is to determine the amount of N2O emitted from fertilizers as greenhouse gases, under varying conditions, rather than being absorbed into the soil.
(Source: Adigo, URL: http://www.adigo.no/portfolio/field-flux-robot-2/)
"Digitally controlled farm implements are already in use in developed countries and most Western farmers and ranchers are already high-tech to some extent," Tobe told us. "Farmers use software systems and aerial or satellite survey maps and data to guide their field operations and are transitioning from satellite and small-plane photos to those provided by drones with sophisticated sensors. Farmers are also using optional auto-steer kits in most new tractors that follow RTK/GPS and digital guidance."
Cheaper than migrant workers is the goal of the picking machines as well as heartier harvests by the artful picking, sorting, boxing and crating right in the field. It's not clear that all those goals have been achieved yet, except perhaps for strawberries.