Agriculture AI Robotics

Agricultural Robots.

Agricultural Robots

Introduction: Agricultural Robots.

Farmers have been using technology to aid in their work for centuries, and the agricultural robots of today are the latest examples of this trend. Agricultural robots are machines that help with tasks such as planting crops, watering plants, and harvesting fruits and vegetables. 

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While there are some concerns about how these robots will impact the workforce, many farmers believe that they will greatly help reduce labor costs and improve yields.

Drones, robots, and super sperm – the future of farming | DW Documentary.

Source: YouTube | Copyright DW

There is no denying that agricultural robots are on the rise, so we’ll just have to wait and see how they change the industry. This article will give you some background on agricultural robots and discuss their uses.

What Are Agricultural Robots?

Agricultural robots are machines that automate certain functions in the agriculture industry. For example, they can plant seeds or spray pesticides based on an algorithm that humans have programmed. Some of these robots even work collaboratively with human farmers to get the job done.

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So are agricultural robots just souped-up tractors? Not at all, actually! Agricultural robots come in several shapes. 

Source: YouTube

These machines also vary in size, function, cost, and other characteristics. Some are bigger than others because they have to carry more weight. Some are even equipped with GPS technology to avoid obstacles during harvesting or seed seeding processes.

What Do They Do?

The tasks that agricultural robots can accomplish vary. However, we can generally break these tasks down into four categories: weeding, harvesting, planting seeds, watering plants, and thinning.

1. Robots for Weed Removal

Weed removal is an expensive process that uses a lot of labor. It also takes away resources from farmers who grow crops, cutting into their profits. That is why many farmers are interested in using robots to do this work for them.

Source: YouTube

Many robots are designed to pull the weeds out of fields, which will free up farmers to focus on growing crops. You can even program robots to weed without disrupting plants nearby by using vision sensors and GPS technology to distinguish between the weeds and the plants.

2. Robots for Crop Harvesting

Not all agricultural robots are used for weeding. Some of them are designed to do the actual harvesting, which is another expensive part of farm work that can require lots of labor. Some of them can even operate without human operators.

For example, some robotic arms were designed to work in orchards and pick ripe fruit that were not damaged. They use cameras and sophisticated software with an algorithm that helps it identify ripe fruit. It can plant seeds, spray pesticides, water plants, and even thin forests.

Robots used for crop harvesting can also collect information about the crop, which will help farmers measure their yields. This kind of data is as important as the actual harvest itself!

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3. Robots for Planting Seeds

If you’re a farmer with acres and acres of crops to grow, then planting seeds by hand is not an ideal solution. It would waste too much time and money. That is why planting seeds with robots is such a popular option for farmers today.

As mentioned before, some agricultural robots work collaboratively with humans to plant the seeds. Others can be programmed to use GPS technology to plant seeds autonomously. For example, The RoboWeeder2 has the “ability to precisely place seeds into the ground at rates as fast as 0.4 acres per hour (40 seeded rows/hour)”.

Source: YouTube | Copyright DW

4. Robots for Watering Plants

Watering plants is another task that many farmers struggle with because it takes up too much time and resources. Additionally, if a farmer isn’t careful, they could drown their crops and end up with a disaster on their hands. Some crops require precise amounts of water daily, so using robots to do the work is such an efficient option.

Many agricultural robots use soil moisture sensors to determine where and when plants need watering. Many of these robots can also manage irrigation schedules for fields and adjust them automatically based on weather patterns. That way, farmers don’t have to worry about over or under-watering their crops.

5. Robots for Thinning Plants

Thinning weeding is another weeding task that has to be done very carefully and precisely, or else it can damage the crops. That is why many have turned to using robots for this process.

For example, some robots can fulfill both spacing and thinning needs. Spacing refers to the appropriate amount of space that should be left between plants, and thinning is removing excess plants that are taking up too much space. These tasks require precision, and technology makes it possible for robots to accomplish them easily.

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Agricultural Robots: Advantages and Disadvantages

There are many benefits to using robots for agricultural purposes, but you must also consider some disadvantages. Here is a look at both. Let’s start with the advantages.

Advantages

They can reduce labor costs

The first advantage of using robots for farming is reducing labor costs. Farms are expensive to operate, and the prices of crops are subject to the market. Using agricultural robots could help farmers reduce their expenses by reducing dependency on human workers. 

There will also be fewer errors if robots are used to do the farming job and less time wasted if they plant and harvest crops automatically.

They can increase crop yields

Using robots for farm work can help farmers get better yield from their crops, which is good for business. Farmers want every single seed they plant to grow into a full-grown plant so that they can harvest as much produce as possible. Optimizing the process is key to this. 

Robots can help minimize losses and increase crop yield, which means a higher profit for the farm owner.

Source: YouTube | Freethink

They require less space

Another advantage of using robots for agricultural purposes is that they take up less space than traditional farm equipment. This is good news for farmers who have small plots of land to work with and don’t want to worry about moving around large pieces of equipment. 

It’s important to note that many agricultural robots are multi-functional and can accomplish several tasks simultaneously.

Disadvantages

Now let’s take a look at the disadvantages of using robots for agricultural purposes.

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They May Not Be Able To Adapt Fast Enough

The first disadvantage is that agricultural robots might not adapt fast enough to maximize output and productivity, especially when it comes to weather changes and unforeseen circumstances. You can program a robot to do a specific job repeatedly, but they aren’t as flexible as humans.

It’s A Big Upfront Investment

Another disadvantage is that it can be a big upfront investment to purchase agricultural robots. This may deter some farmers from taking this route, but it could also encourage other farmers to learn more about the potential opportunities of using these machines on the farm. But that’s not to say it won’t pay off in the long run.

You can expect to make your money back fairly quickly because they can help you increase yield and reduce your labor costs. In fact, it’s been projected that in some cases, the money a farmer makes from using agricultural robots during the first year of operation will be enough to cover their initial investment.

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They Can Be Expensive To Maintain

Not only are they an investment when it comes to purchasing, but agricultural robots can also be expensive to maintain. The cost of replacing parts and servicing these machines could drain the farm owner’s resources, depending on the problem. 

Also, if something goes wrong and the robot stops working altogether, it could be a significant setback for the farm and delays in production.

They Require A Learning Curve

Last but not least, another disadvantage is that agricultural robots might require a learning curve when using them for farming purposes. It takes time to become proficient with these kinds of machines, especially if they are multi-functional and can accomplish several tasks simultaneously.

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The Future Of Agricultural Robots

While the robotics industry is already making an exciting splash in the agriculture industry, the best is yet to come. Agricultural robots are becoming an intricate part of the farming industry because they can benefit farms looking to improve efficiency. 

In the future, we can expect to see more focus on solar-powered robots that can pick produce without using any fuel. Robots will also take on an increasingly larger role in weed removal.

However, using these machines alongside traditional farming techniques can be more beneficial than using them as replacements. We may see the day where every single farm is completely robotized, but it might take a while before that happens. 

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Conclusion: Agricultural Robots.

As you can see, there are many advantages and a few disadvantages to using agricultural robots on the farm. So far, it seems that more benefits outweigh the costs, especially when increasing crop yields, taking up less space than traditional equipment, and requiring less labor.

As it stands right now, the only real disadvantage is that it can be an initial investment to purchase these kinds of robots. However, plenty of other benefits may sway farmers into taking the plunge and investing in agricultural robots.

Sanksshep Mahendra

Sanksshep Mahendra is a technology executive, he holds a Master's degree from Pratt Institute and executive education from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in AI, Robotics, and Automation.

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