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Robots that grow our food

More and more farmers are using robots to help grow vegetables, spray pesticides and yes, even milk the cows!

The dream is closer than you think

When you hear the word robot, you probably automatically think of R2D2 or the terminator or any number of other futuristic robots from movies or television. But the truth is that robots are already all around us. Building our cars and cleaning our homes. But did you know that they also grow our food? The food industry has been going robotic for the past few years and there are some incredible innovations in the field of agriculture.

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Take for example this new tractor by john deere - the world’s largest farm machinery manufacturer. This tractor is fully autonomous and capable of driving around the field and performing various tasks without any human intervention. It uses six pairs of stereoscopic cameras, allowing it to see 360º around itself to check for obstacles. It navigates using a combination of cameras and GPS and it receives instructions from the farmer via a dedicated app. The new tractor allows the farmer to essentially double his productivity. The robot can till one field while the farmer is busy harvesting the other, while always keeping an eye on the robot’s progression through the app.

Or how about this strawberry picking robot by Agrobot. The Agrobot E-Series is a sophisticated robotic strawberry harvester that is able to autonomously pick only the ripe berries. Every arm on this robot is equipped with a camera that allows it to determine which strawberry is ripe and which should be left alone. When it detects a ripe strawberry, it’s able to gently pick it and place it in a pile for the grower to pack and sell.

And speaking of gentle robots, check out this milking robot at Shenandoah Jerseys in Washington County. These happy cows are free to roam the fields, eating grass as they please, and when they feel like being milked they wander into this robotic milking parlor. An ID tag on the cow's ear allows the robot to identify the cow and the milking process begins automatically. What used to take the farmers about 4 hours each day, herding the cows, lining them up and milking them, is now done in the background and frees the farmers to do other work around the farm.

But what robots excel at, is taking over dangerous jobs that humans would rather not do. One such job is dealing with pesticides. DJI, the world's leading drone company, has developed the DJI Agras T-30, a robotic drone that can hold 40 liters of pesticides and is capable of spraying 40 acres per hour. Using a drone to handle the harmful chemicals has several different advantages. Apart from relieving the farmer from this dangerous part of the job, the drone is also much more efficient at spraying the pesticides evenly, so less chemicals need to be used. And on top of that, the swirling wind that the drone produces while flying allows the pesticides to reach the bottom part of the leaves, where the pests usually hide.

There are a lot more examples of robots being used in agriculture, but you don’t have to be a farmer to use one! Farmbot is an open source robotic system for your home that allows you to grow several different crops in your own backyard without needing to do anything. You just tell farmbot what you want to grow, provide the seeds, and the robot does everything for you. From planting the seeds, watering the plants and even removing weeds, the process is completely autonomous and all you have to do is pick the vegetables when they are done growing and enjoy.

There is no doubt, robots are transforming agriculture and allowing farmers to produce more and work less. And who knows, maybe one day agriculture will be completely automated and robots will grow and produce all our food.

What did you think of our video? Would you consider growing vegetables in your backyard if it was all managed by a robot? Let us know in the comments.

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