From seeding to weed control, and from harvesting to sheep shearing, agricultural robots have replaced humans globally. They can be used for various herculean tasks such as pruning, seeding, spraying, and monitoring crop growth.
Agricultural robots are gaining more attention among the farmers owing to the increased need of production materials, introduction of virtual reality, and the involvement of automation technology in agricultural science. In its recent report on agricultural robot market, Allied Market Research stated that the agricultural robot market will grow at a considerable CAGR from 2017 to 2023. The shortage of farm workers, lack of bees for pollination, and increased requirement of agricultural products grew the market of agricultural robots.
Agricultural Robots Balance the Labor Shortage:
A study published by the professor of the University of California stated that the most of the hired farm labors are immigrants, and many of them do not have full and proper documentation. The recent regulations of federal government have decreased the flow of farm workers, which created a huge demand for agricultural robots. This necessity of labors can be fulfilled by agricultural robots, developed by Harvest Croo Robotics, a Florida-based robotic harvesting company.
The CEO of Harvest Croo Robotics, Wishnatzki, believes that a single strawberry harvesting robot can pick a 25-acre field within three days, and has a potential to replace at least 30 labors. Croo's robotic harvester uses vision sensors and an advance software to scan the position of the fruits. Moreover, it can scan the field without harming any soft berries. According to Wishnatzki, Croo's robot can replace humans in farming. However, regardless of several scientists' speculations robots cannot replace the human requirement; however, it can reduce the number of skilled labors.
Implementation of Robotics in the Agricultural Science:
Scientists at the University of Illinois developed a TerraSentia crop phenotyping robot. It is a lightweight and low-cost robot that can transform data collection for seed companies and farmers.
The TerraSentia robot can travel around the crop rows autonomously using several vision sensors and cameras. The robot can be remotely controlled with the help of virtual reality and GPS. Furthermore, it can transfer data in real time to the operator's computer or smartphone. As the robot only weighs about 24 pounds, it can roll over young plants without causing any serious damages.
According to Carl Bernacchi, one of the professor of University of Illinois collaborating on the project, automation of data collection and analytics can transform the breeding pipeline and unlock the mysteries of environmental conditions. Furthermore, the data collected by such agricultural robots can help farmers produce the best quality of crops.
Use of Artificial Intelligence to Reduce the Shortage of Pollinators:
A recently published study concluded that the reduction in agricultural production is mainly due to a worldwide lack of bees, which are essential to pollinate plants and flowers. Therefore, Israeli robotics researcher, Yael Edan developed artificial bees in the form of drones. The project is focused on creating enough wind, required for pollination using several drones. In an interview, Edan stated, "Robots should replace some tedious, low-wedge tasks of farmers and labors. If the automation in agricultural continues, it is possible that robots can perform variety of tasks such as selective spraying and harvesting."
The requirement of skilled labor has increased in recent years. Recently, countries such as Israel and the U.S. are importing people from Mexico, which boosted the robotic demand. Furthermore, even though farmers do not want them to be replaced by robots, they still require some assistance. Thus, the development of agricultural robots has become a need of the hour.