Five way service robots can help the agricultural industry

Service robots are becoming common in agriculture to fulfill an ever-expanding number of needs to overcome the labor shortage as well as the rising world population.
By Robotic Industries Association (RIA) June 17, 2019
Image courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media

The agriculture industry provides the world with one of the most basic human needs: Food. The application of service robots is shaping the future of this industry. The labor shortage coupled with the rising world population necessitates technological advancements to meet these growing and shifting demands. Service robots are becoming common in agriculture to fulfill an ever-expanding number of needs including:

1. Aerial imaging

Drones equipped with multi-spectral and photographic cameras monitor crop stress, track plant growth, and predict yields. More advanced drones deliver herbicides, fertilizer, and water.  Drones can be programmed to perform scheduled flyovers or to be used as needed. Additionally, farmers don’t even need to own these systems outright as they can be offered as a service. Drones are often low maintenance and can return to weatherproof docking stations on their own, recharge, and upload data for analysis.

2. Spraying and weeding

Service robots connected to the data collected by drones can be trained to identify and pluck weeds in areas tagged by the drones. These service robots can also apply pesticides and herbicides where and when needed. Robots can drive through crop fields, use machine vision and learning to identify what weeds look like, and then use a device to stamp weeds down. Of particular importance, farmers now are able to control weeds without the use of herbicides that are harmful to humans.

3. Help with harvesting

Robots can be used to harvest fruits and vegetables with great precision. Computer vision algorithms allow machines to locate each piece of produce. Some designs grasp the produce with a gripper and then use a small saw to safety cut it from the plant or tree. Advantageously, robots can often work day and night during the time-critical harvest time. Equipment also includes built-in artificial intelligence (AI) to determine when a particular fruit or vegetable is ready to be harvested.

4. Unmanned equipment navigates on its own

GPS systems and robotic technologies allow farmers to program tractors and other farm equipment to automatically run fields and perform required tasks, such as data collection for variable rate application, unmanned. These devices have a high degree of accuracy and can automatically adjust to hilly terrain. Farmers are even able to follow their equipment’s exact location and progress by using a smartphone.

5. Improved shipping methods

The use of robots doesn’t just end out in the field or orchard. Robots are being used for agricultural shipping operations as well. Robots switch out pallets, handle perishable items, and help perform maintenance to machinery. Modern service robots are flexible and allow adjustments for different products and shipping configurations.

The agriculture industry continues to evolve to meet growing and shifting demands for crop production and fulfillment. Service robots are becoming increasingly useful for a wide variety of applications, helping the industry to efficiently change with the times.

This article originally appeared on the Robotics Online BlogRobotic Industries Association (RIA) is a part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a CFE Media content partner.

Robotic Industries Association (RIA)