Have you seen David Attenborough’s self-described witness, A Life on Our Planet? The current economics of arable farming are not sustainable. A new approach is needed to stem the adverse effects of climate change while our human population continues to grow.
Not long ago, New Electronics reported on Small Robot Company, a start-up looking to replace the behemoth machinery used in farming with lightweight, agile, and intelligent robots. The robots have GPS, a cloud-based operating system, optical recognition for farming, apply pesticides only to the affected areas, and use lasers to weed.
Joe Allnutt, head of the technical team at Small Robots says,
Precision farming and the use of robots to deliver that will mean crops will be healthier, the soil from which they are grown will be in a better condition, and yields will be significantly higher. Bills for fuel and chemicals will be reduced dramatically and farmers will no longer have to do basic farm work…
Tom, Dick, and Harry are the given names of the series of farmbots. Allnutt explains that:
Tom autonomously monitors the crop and soil, and keeps an eye on weeds. It monitors on a plant-by-plant basis. Dick and Harry then take care of all the feeding, seeding, and weeding. When one of these robots is needed, it turns up and does its job. When it is finished, we can take it away – they are easy to transport.
Farmers may mistrust technology because they have been oversold on tech that ultimately underdelivered. Because of the slim profit margins inherent in farming, farmers want technology that does not carry much risk. Allnut says, “The robotics industry, however, has a strong open source community to call on, which means that we’ve been able to leverage technology more easily.”
If farming with AI can be done in a way that makes the farmer’s life simpler, saves money, and contains all the knowledge it needs to perform its job, this could be the dawn of a new and better way of farming.
Reality Changing Observations:
1. What are some other industries where robots can work smarter for sustainability?
2. How could drones be integrated in monitoring of agricultural crops?
3. What is your personal experience with farming?