Farmbots: The Future Of Farming

Agricultural robots or ‘farmbots’ are robots that automate agricultural processes such as harvesting, fruit picking, spraying chemicals, removing weed and herding cattle. Compared to the manufacturing industries commercial agriculture has been slow to adopt robotics, but not because of a lack of motivation to do so. It’s just a lot harder to build safe, reliable robots for agricultural work than it is for manufacturing. Here are 5 futuristic farmbots that are in different stages of development:

1) Herder Bot
Australian researchers have developed a ‘robotic rover’ that herds cows and effectively replaces the herder dog. The idea behind the rover is eliminating the dog’s error of judgement. During a recent experiment on a Camden dairy herd, the response of the robotic rover on the cows was recorded and the data indicated that the herd of cows did respond better to the rover than a real dog. Rover also eliminates the need for human judgement in deciding the pace that is comfortable for the slowest cow. The rover frame includes monocular, stereo and panospheric colour cameras, thermal infrared cameras, 2D and 3D LiDAR sensors, a sophisticated scanning RADAR system and geo positioning sensors. Watch the video of the Rover being tested.

2) Nursery Bot
A lot of time and labor is spent on moving potted plants around in a nursery. The nursery business is close to $50 billion per year, with the labor cost for moving pots estimated at $3.2 billion per year. Harvest Automation, a Massachusetts-based company, has developed a robot called the HV-100 to combat this problem. The HV-100 is designed to continuously perform repetitive tasks like moving, spacing and collecting. The user interface of the HV-100 is really simple, you just have to enter the location of the plant on touch screen grid. The robot uses its sensors to pick up the potted plant and carry it to the desired location. This video shows a 4-robot team perform spacing with bedding fork integration.

3) Crop Dusting Helicopters and Drones
Crop duster planes are extremely dangerous, expensive and can now be completely replaced by unmanned helicopters and drones. Drones already dust close to 95% of Japan’s crops. Drones besides being cheaper are also more accurate, safe and and environmentally friendly. This video features the unmanned helicopter Ag120.

4) Lettuce Bot
A team of engineers from Stanford have created a lean, mean weed killing machine called the Lettuce Bot. The Lettuce Bot has a database of more than a million images that it uses to identify the plants. Once it identifies the offender, it releases a strong spray of fertilizer directly on the weed killing it and fertilizing the lettuce around it. The Lettuce Bot can clean a field of weeds is the same time as taken by 20 field workers. Bot’s co-creators Jorge Heraud and Lee Redden met at Stanford while studying engineering. They used their understanding of robotics, computer vision, and machine learning algorithms to start Blue River Technology bringing advanced technologies to agriculture. Watch the video below to see the Lettuce Bot in field.

5) Bee Bot
The RoboBee being developed by the Harvard engineers is labelled as the smallest flying robot ever made. The RoboBee can be used to pollinate a field of crops, in search & rescue operations and for military surveillance. Researchers are now working to map the honeybees brain to understand and replicate the behaviour in the RoboBees. Watch the RoboBee in action below.

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