Robotic farmers


Prof. Ing. Peter Hubinský, PhD.
Institute of Robotics and Cybernetics (IRC), STUBA
Bratislava, Slovakia

Agriculture is probably the last place anyone would look for the robotic technology. The truth is, we can expect its roll-out in this area very soon, despite its later arrival.


You can see an increase in the application of robotic agricultural machinery, which can plow, sow, water and chemically treat crops according to a predefined schedule. A robot can be equipped with a powerful visual system and apply water and chemical treatment directly to a singular plant. This saves water and chemical products and has both, economic and environmental impact. Non-chemical weeding, in many ways similar to the original method of manual labor in the fields, also benefits the environment. In the future, you can envisage the use of microrobots for pest control and pollinating plants, where they would substitute the endangered bees.



Another promising application is in harvesting, either in the form of robotic harvesters or mobile robots with the manipulating arm capable to hold the fruit without damaging it. Harvesting crops is easier in greenhouses; robots have already been used to collect strawberries, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. It is possible to harvest tree fruits, too, provided they are equally spaced and the crown is suitably shaped for easier access to the fruit. Vineyards offer opportunities for robotics; robots can be used for harvesting of grapes itself, but also for a year-round care for the vines. Robots already help greatly in sorting and packaging of fruits and vegetables.

What is also becoming an interesting development, is the application of flying drones fitted with multispectral cameras. They can recognize color variations invisible to the human eye, and thus find dry areas requiring watering, areas attacked by pests or estimate maturity of crops. Drones can also be used in finding lost cattle and experiments were carried out with replacing herding dogs by drones.



In developed countries, robotic milking and caring for cattle in stalls, including food distribution and floor cleaning, is quite common.

Robots in agriculture can directly replace human labor where the sector has been suffering from shortage. Agricultural sector has been dealing with this problem by ever wider application of chemical products and use of genetically modified crops. Robotics can reverse these trends and return to the original mechanical methods of work, which would benefit the environment, while maintaining high productivity of farmers’ work.





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