Farming robots have become a reality. Jobs to Farms Robots! Work for Farms Robots! Hire Farms Robots!
How the use of robots in agriculture is expanding.
Robots already know how to weed out – and this could be a promising solution in agriculture, allowing to reduce the use of herbicides and deteriorate soil quality. And in the future, robots will be able to massively collect fruits and vegetables, transport them to packaging points, sow, find diseases and pests.
Until recently, the use of robots in agriculture remained rather in the field of development and seemed to be a matter, if not too distant, then the future – like unmanned taxis or robotic surgeons. However, these robots are already being used in practice – and primarily for weed control.
In April, the American startup Carbon Robotics presented its development – a robot for weeding fields. Outwardly, such a robot looks like a small car 3 m long and weighing 4.3 tons, and its method of weed control would be suitable for some science fiction movie – the robot slowly drives across the field in search of weeds, and when it is found, it burns them with a laser. According to Carbon Robotics, this robot can kill up to 100,000 weeds per hour. The first batch of such robots has already been sold out, now the company is accepting orders for 2022 – there is no data on the price of such robots in the public domain, but it is reported that they cost several a lot of dollars.
“ You see a weed, it lights up when a laser hits it, and there is no weed. 10 years ago it seemed like science fiction, ”says Idaho farmer Shay Myers. He grows onions and is known for his TikTok videos on farm life and agriculture, as well as his active use of technology on the farm – among other things, he was one of the first to use robots for weed control.
Another manufacturer of such robots is the American company FarmWise. In appearance, these robots are similar to their counterparts from Carbon Robotics, but in this case, not lasers, but ordinary blades are used for weeding. However, robots working in the field autonomously find weeds and destroy them in the same way. FarmWise does not sell its robots, but leases them to farmers along with technical support and operators – it costs about $ 500 per hectare. This year, the company is adding fungicides and insecticides to conventional field weeding, where weeding is not enough. Sebastien Boye, founder of FarmWise, says ten of the top 20 vegetable growers in the United States use his company’s services in their fields in California and Arizona, where the company mainly operates.
There are also smaller robots. One of them is the Dick robot developed by the British Small Robot Company, which looks like a large (taller than human) spider. Unlike other similar robots that run on diesel fuel – manufacturers explain this by the fact that it is difficult to organize regular recharging on the field, and powerful robots require a lot of energy, Dick runs on a Tesla battery. There are other similar robots – for example, the robot created by the Swiss Ecorobotix is not engaged in weeding, but in the application of herbicides, but very pinpoint.
According to experts, the use of such robots will reduce or even eliminate the use of herbicides, and therefore reduce the risks of soil mineralization and deterioration of its quality, contamination of groundwater with herbicides, etc. In addition, over time, weeds become more and more resistant to the herbicides used against them. , and the use of robots can solve this problem as well.
“Reducing the use of herbicides is one of the impressive results of precision weeding (as they call weed control with the help of such robots),” says Gautam Das, professor of robotic use in agriculture at the University of Lincoln in Britain. In his opinion, even in cases where robots do not weed fields, but use herbicides on them, this happens much more point-wise, which means that the use of such substances is reduced by 90%. Mr. Das believes that the model of providing such robots on demand instead of buying (as in FarmWise) is very promising, because in this case farmers do not need to spend significant sums on such equipment at once, which can become an obstacle to the use of such robots.
The agricultural robot market as a whole is projected to grow from $ 5.4 billion in 2020 to over $ 20 billion in 2026. This area has already attracted the attention of investors – according to PitchBook, in 2020 they invested in startups related to agriculture, $ 6.1 billion, 60% more than a year earlier. In addition to weeding robots, there are many other uses for robots in agriculture. For example, the American company Iron Ox has developed a robotic arm that scans plants in greenhouses to track possible diseases or pests. Burro has created an autonomous robot that transports grapes from pickers to packing points, and he has to drive not on flat asphalt, but on fields and dirt roads, which was taken into account when creating it. The developers of this robot are testing options for its use for transporting other berries and fruits. Another startup, Root AI, has developed a Virgo robot that can harvest tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and other vegetables. Such a robot, using AI, determines the ripeness of the fruits, and then picks them off with a robotic hand with a special soft grip, which should not damage them.