Precision Agriculture: Robot Gardeners Serve Plant Network

Precision agriculture is a system in which gardening robots work together with networked plants that communicate water and nutrient needs in an MIT project from their Distributed Robotics Lab.


(MIT robot gardeners tend networked plants)

The system, which Rus refers to as precision agriculture, has a double advantage over the way crops are currently cultivated and harvested. First, due to each plant’s ability to monitor and broadcast its own physical state, water, nutrients and care will be dispensed on an as-needed basis. This kind of targeted specificity should allow for a great reduction in resources consumed in the growth process, ameliorating the heavy carbon footprint of today’s agriculture. Furthermore, a mechanical harvest removes the backbreaking work currently involved in reaping specialty crops such as fruit and vegetables.


(MIT Precision Agriculture robot gardeners action video)

When I first saw this, I thought about the servok used in the Conservatory from Dune:

Something rustled in the greenery. She tensed, then glimpsed a simple clock-set servok with pipe and hose arms.

SF fans might also recall the somewhat more autonomous robot crab from Neuromancer:

A gardener, a thing like a large metal crab, was tending the bamboo...

The robot crab moved toward them, picking its way over the waves of gravel. Its bronze carapace might have been a thousand years old. When it was within a meter of her boots, it fired a burst of light, then froze for an instant, analyzing data obtained...

I think Philip K. Dick also mentioned a robot gardener in his 1955 short story War Veteran.

There is one thing that is typical of the roboticist's approach to this real-world problem - there are no garden pests in this perfect garden. That's why they need the agricultural pest controller from Michael Crichton's movie Runaway.


(Agbot emerges from the stalks)

Update 31-Mar-2009: Fans of the 1972 movie Silent Running will also remember (as Winchell Chung did) that Bruce Dern took tended his garden with the help of robots.


(Gardening robots from Silent Running)

(End update.)

From Precision Agriculture.

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