Are Robots the Future of Agriculture?

Australian engineers, seeing massive potential in the island nation’s agricultural sector, are investigation automation and the use of robotics as the next stage in agricultural production.

As a field, the agricultural industry has always been at the cutting edge of technological innovation. The willingness of farmers to experiment with new technologies and agricultural practices has led to the massive expansion of chemical fertilizers, the widespread use of industrial machinery, and, more recently, the embrace of genetically modified crops.

Australian engineers are looking forward to the next major technological breakthrough on the farm. Professor Salah Sukkarieh at the University of Sydney believes that robots could be that breakthrough.

Sukkarieh and a team of mechanical engineers are working on developing robots able to sense and respond to their surroundings. While Australian agriculture has extraordinary potential, high labor costs could undermine future international expansion.

“This is where automation can help,” Sukkarieh said. “We can use it to increase efficiency and yield, by having many of the manual tasks of farming performed by specially designed agricultural robotic devices. Traditionally it has been necessary for someone to actually walk through the orchard, taking and analyzing soil and other samples and making decisions on the health and yield quality of the plants,” he said as an example. “The devices we’ve developed can collect, analyze and present this information autonomously, so a major part of the farmer’s job can be done automatically.”

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer