There is no question that farms of the future will be heavily dependent on robotic applications. Whilst this is currently a relatively under-developed area, rapid progress is being made to introduce more robots in agriculture, driven by 3 key factors:
- Improvements in robot sensitivities, enabling them to pick soft fruit and interact safely with animals
- Labour shortages
- Predicted population increases putting pressure on the global agriculture sector to keep up with demand
- Automatic milking: it is expected that by 2025, 50% of European herds will be milked by robots.
- Animal management: the use of AI technology will enable precision farming and an animal-centric health and welfare approach to continuously assess the condition of individual animals.
- Pruning: an example here is an AI-powered robot which works in vineyards, to determine which shoots need removing, then a robotic arm equipped with cutting technology, thins the plants.
- Weeding: complex visual technology enables a robot crawling across a field to accurately discriminate between good plant and bad weed – and then destroy the weed
- Spraying: Precision spraying has been proven to reduce the amount of herbicide needed by up to 90%, thereby dramatically reducing costs and delivering substantial environmental gains too
- Picking: sensitive robot hands have been developed which can harvest soft fruit such as strawberries and raspberries. The robot can also discriminate between fruit which is ready for picking, and that which is unripe. As robots can work around the clock, harvesting can be completed quickly and efficiently, particularly important when the weather is about to turn
- Monitoring: drone technology will enable farmers to collect accurate data over large areas. As well as aerial photography or video recording, drones can be equipped with infrared sensors to determine the health of crops.