AgBots: Agricultural Robots Take The Field

In one memorable scene from the original Star Wars movie, Luke Skywalker's Uncle Owen is bargaining for agricultural robots with Jawas. Agriculture has been slow to adopt to robotic technology; however, some new developments are on the horizon.

(From Demeter - National Robotics Engineering Consortium)

For example, the Demeter automated harvester provides the following functionality:

  • A "cruise-control" feature, which allows the operator to give control over to the harvester itself for short periods
  • A "drone" feature, which allows one operator to remotely control several harvesters at once
The final step, providing fully autonomous operation, is currently under development. The Demeter project uses off-the-shelf technologies to provide an average guidance accuracy of +/- 3 centimeters.

At the other end of the size spectrum, University of Illinois agricultural engineers are working on robots ("ag robots") small enough to walk in the rows between plants, scouting for weeds and insects, and taking soil tests. These small (approximately one foot long) robots could do the work now tediously done with human-piloted tractors.

"Who needs 500 horsepower to go through the field when you might as well put a few robots out there that communicate with each other like an army of ants, working the entire field and collecting data?"
(Tony Grift, UI agricultural engineer)

Some of the current approaches:

  • "Ag Ant", an inexpensive foot-long bot that works cooperatively
  • Robots using laser guidance systems to maintain a straight path
  • Robots that use ultrasonic sensors that weave from plant to plant

This approach could dispense with many current practices in agriculture, in which entire fields are sprayed with pesticides or other agents. Instead, small robots could administer small doses at the point where they are needed.

Science fiction buffs remember R2D2 and C3PO, of course; but although these robots were purchased for agricultural use, that was not their primary function (as C3PO might put it). The robot gardening crab from William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer is a good example of an elegantly functional "ag robot."

See Demeter and University of Illinois creates robot farmers for more information. Watch a short video of Demeter harvesting here.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/6/2004)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Agriculture ")

Vertical Farms? Still Waiting, But Concepts Abound
'Stacked up to the sky...' - Pohl and Kornbluth, 1951.

Ladybird Agricultural Robot Is Solar-Powered
'A robot gardener worked over the same patch of grass again and again...'- Philip K Dick, 1955.

Vertical Farms Have Advantages
'Like the office In-and-Out baskets stacked up to the sky...'- Pohl and Kornbluth, 1952.

Lettuce-Bot Weed-Killing Robot Funded
A new alternative to labor-intensive farming techniques.



Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.






Current News

Blue Origin Reusable Rocket's Vertical Landing
We're getting there, one launch at a time.

X125 Snake-Arm Inspection Robot Video
'... long, flexible, glittering tentacles...'

Super-Thin Smart Glazing Displays
'...a wide sheet of clear material suddenly flared with light and swirling color.'

Have Scientists Found A Parallel Universe Leaking Into Ours
'Ellis had found a weak point, a shimmer, at which another continuum completely had been visible.'

Active Wellness Smart Car Seat
'Maybe the car was right...'

Tech Tats Prototype Sfnal Devices
'...Permanently fixed in the centre of his forehead.'

ANNABELL AI Can Learn English From Scratch
'...Could understand not only classic programming but also Loglan and English..."

Tesla Suit Gives Haptic Hugs
'Then a pressure on the lips...'

Surgically Implantable Artificial Kidney Starts Testing
'George Walt... proved the workability of wholly mechanical organs...'

Self-Filling Water Bottle Is Beetle-Based
'That moisture trickles down...'

Senate Passes Space Mining Legislation
'The law of filing on newly discovered asteroids was definite...'

Microsoft's Surface Book Is Part Clipboard
'Floyd sometimes wondered if the Newspad, and the fantastic technology behind it, was the last word in man's quest for perfect communications...'

Police Use Predictive Maps ala 'Minority Report' Routinely
'...the data-receptors, and the computing mechanisms that studied and restructured the incoming material.'

Tesla Autopilot Road Trip 2995 Miles, 57 Hours
'The beautiful old car cruised ... under the guidance of its automatic controls...'

The 'Marching Mountains' Of Pluto
Calling Captain Future!

Graphene Thermopile May Grant Predator Heat Vision To Humans
'What the hell are you?'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise | - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.