Top 5 Robotic Applications in the Agricultural Industry
The food industry is being revolutionized by robotics and automation. According to a recent report, the market for agricultural robots and drones is expected to reach $35 billion within the next five years.
There are real problems in modern agriculture. Traditional farming methods struggle to keep up with the efficiencies required by the market. Farmers in developed countries are suffering from a lack of workforce. Automated farming is an attempt to solve all the problems by using robotics and advanced sensing.
1. Crop Seeding
Many food plants begin life as seeds in a field. Traditionally seeds arescattered using a "broadcast spreader" attached to a tractor. This throws many seeds around the field while the tractor drives at a steady pace. Autonomous precision seeding combines robotics with geomapping. A map is generated which shows the soil properties at every point in the field. The tractor, with robotic seeding attachment, places the seeds at precise locations and depths.
2. Fertilizing and Irrigation
Irrigating and fertilizing crops has traditionally used a lot of water is quite inefficient. Robot-Assisted Precision Irrigation reduces wasted water by targeting specific plants. Ground robots autonomously navigate between rows of crop and pour water directly at the base of each plant.
Robots also have an advantage as they are able to access areas where other machines cannot.
3. Crop Weeding and Spraying
Spraying pesticides and weed killers onto fields is not only wasteful, it can severely harm the environment. Robots provide a much more efficient method.
The concept of micro-spraying can reduce the amount of herbicide used in crop growing. Micro-spraying robots use computer vision technology to detect weeds and then spray a targeted drop of herbicide onto them.
4. Autonomous Tractors
As humans usually drive the tractors, the robots are designed to adapt to the speed that the human is driving. However, fully-autonomous tractors are also becoming popular. There is also a rising trend for follow-the-leader autonomy, where tractors autonomously follow human-driven combine harvesters to collect the grain.
5. Picking and Harvesting
Harvesting crops such as corn, barley and wheat is quite simple. It can be done with a combine harvester, which can be automated just like a tractor. However, other crops, like soft fruits, are more difficult to harvest as they require manual dexterity. "Clever Robots for Crops" project is making progress on a few harvesting applications, including apple harvesting, grape picking and sweet pepper picking.
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