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Solar-Powered Autonomous Robot Monitors Agricultural Fields to Boost Yield

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hkxuv0uclzeabkkbqzltMaybe we do not realize it, but to have our freshly made salad on the dining table every day, many farmers have invested a lot of energy, a lot of resources and have taken quite a risk, considering the rapidly changing climate situation. To minimize risk, and optimize production, Australian scientists developed the Ladybird farm automator, the farming robot, which replaces all manual tasks.

Robots are replacing workers in pretty much every industry there is, and this is especially the case in agriculture and farming. Only half a century ago, all day-to-day habits and routines, even family planning and summer day-light saving time, revolved around crops’ growing season. In the past few decades, however, technological advances have made it much easier for farm owners, minimizing the need of hard labor and complex manual monitoring.

Just as it is the case with electronics, new developments in the agricultural sector emerge every day. Because food scarcity is now posing a real threat to the world’s population, scientists have come up with incredible number of inventions and alternatives to compensate for the increasingly harsher weather conditions.

Agricultural drones with sensors and imaging capabilities, are now a very affordable mean for monitoring crop production, helping farmers manage their fields much better and more effectively. Unfortunately, in many places drones are not allowed to fly over fields, due to increased risk of falling (and the slight paranoia that people are constantly monitored). So while owners of such technologies are trying to find ways to bypass the law, scientist are not wasting time, especially those at University of Sydney.

Meet the Ladybird, the intelligent farming robot, which brought the prestigious title of ‘Researcher of the Year’ awarded by Ausveg, the Australian Vegetable peak industry body, to its inventor and robotic expert, Professor Salah Sukkarieh. The robot is 100% solar-electric powered thanks to the curved shell of photovoltaic plates and it moves autonomously through the agricultural field. It has sensors for collecting laser and hyper spectral data, used for monitoring soil quality, nutrient content, plant development and even sees pests.  Here is a small demo video of the Ladybird in action.

Yes, it is a brilliant invention, and yes it will surely help many farmers in the process of mapping, surveillance and monitoring of their fields in order to boost crop yield. But I see a small paradox here. This technology is developed to optimize production in order to ensure enough food supply for everyone. However, it is usually the case that those, who find it hard to get or afford food, are usually the same ones, who have once worked in an industry but have been left jobless because they have been replaced by robots. Or maybe I am wrong.

Image (c) University of Sidney

 

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