It’s harvest season in the Northern hemisphere, so farmers head into the fields to gather the fruit of their hard labor. But now, robots are along for the ride.
A few days ago, a boxy yellow robot rolled through the rows of yellow pepper patches in a Belgian greenhouse, spotting and picking the ripened fruit. Moving along the tall leafy plants, the robot paused whenever its camera detected a ripe yellow pepper and then with a quick move of a blade, cut the stem, grabbing the fruit with a palm-like catcher.
Named SWEEPER, the robot is a result of a collaboration between Israeli, Dutch, Swedish, and Belgian scientists—a complex piece of equipment aimed to help farmers and agricultural workers in the harvesting process. Peppers aren’t the only items SWEEPER should be able to handle. With some modification, similar robots can be devised to gather apples or tomatoes, for example.
Some argue that these robots may cause job losses for agricultural workers, but the reality is more complex. As the climate changes, heat waves intensify, and humidity increases, working long hours in the field is becoming more unhealthy, and in some cases dangerous, for humans. Even greenhouse conditions, tailored to the plants’ needs, may in some cases be too hot or humid for people.
According to reported data from 1992 to 2006, 68 crop workers in the U.S. died from exposure to environmental heat. In essence, toiling in the fields is a hard job that will become even more difficult as climate change progresses, so humans will likely have to rely on robots to do some farming. “We don’t expect these robots to replace people,” says Prof. Yael Edan, head of BGU’s ABC Robotics Initiative, whose team worked on the SWEEPER robot. “We think they would help with tasks that are difficult for people to do.”
To teach SWEEPER to identify peppers and harvest them gently without damaging them or the plant they grew on required artificial intelligence and machine learning. Unlike humans, who can discern the colorful fruit among the green foliage quite easily, even in somewhat dim lighting, robots have a much more difficult time doing so. Polina Kurtser, BGU Ph.D. student in computer vision and robotics, says that the team had to use thousands of pictures of peppers to teach the robot to identify the vegetables.
The harvesting arm, called a gripper or manipulator, went through many integrations, including pulling, cutting and dropping the fruit into a bag, as well as other harvesting variations—to devise the most efficient and safest model.
“The part of the gripper that goes into the plant is very compact; it’s quite a smart design that prevents the knife from harming the plant,” says Boaz Arad, BGU Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science.
It took the team about three and a half years to arrive at the current model, he adds. At the end, during its latest greenhouse demonstration, SWEEPER passed the test.
The BGU team is developing other agricultural innovations too. One of them is a smart pesticide sprayer that would calculate the exact amount of chemicals needed to keep plants healthy. Rather than spraying abundantly, the machine would target the chemicals, thereby reducing people’s exposure to them.
Learn more: BGU Researchers Are Changing the Farming Culture
The Latest on: Robotic farming
via Google News
The Latest on: Robotic farming
- Hinchley dairy farm robotic milking on February 19, 2019 at 7:46 pm
Hinchley dairy farm robotic milking Farmers go robotic for labor saving benefits. Check out this story on wisfarmer.com: https://www.wisfarmer.com/picture-gallery/opinion/2019/02/20/hinchley-dairy-far... […]
- Robots on the farm on February 19, 2019 at 2:36 pm
Each new technological advancement in agriculture, from tractors to tillage techniques, has allowed farmers to plant and harvest more food in less time. Today’s era of agricultural innovation is preci... […]
- Down on the farm — with robots on February 19, 2019 at 1:28 pm
Anyone who has ever labored under the summer sun in an agricultural job (raises hand) can appreciate the import of yesterday’s Washington Post’s report on the rise of agricultural robots. A decline in ... […]
- Opinion | Digitization, Technology, and Farming—Who’s Got the Power? on February 19, 2019 at 12:01 am
The world has seen the emergence of drones, robots and AI, remote sensors, and Big Data, penetrating into all aspects of farming and food. This can be a scary story of corporate takeover, disempowered ... […]
- Robots Are In the Process of Revolutionizing Farming on February 18, 2019 at 5:21 pm
Farmers have been complaining about the difficulty of finding people to pick fruits and vegetables. The problem has seeped to the cash register, where consumers face escalating costs. The problem may ... […]
- China wants to put a solar farm in space by 2025 on February 18, 2019 at 5:29 am
Researchers are therefore considering whether the station could be constructed in space using robots and 3D printing. The effects of microwave radiation on the atmosphere will also need to be studied. ... […]
- From robots to virtual fencing – what does the future hold for food and farming in Britain? on February 18, 2019 at 1:31 am
Robots, vertical farms and virtual fencing could soon be the farming of the future, according to a new report from the NFU. The NFU that has taken a leap into the future to explore what the landscape ... […]
- Robotic Milking Systems market forecast to 2024 just published on February 17, 2019 at 11:37 pm
and automated milking rotary, by dairy farm owners. Owing to the increasing demand for dairy products, an increasing number of large herd size dairy farms are expected to be set up in the future in co... […]
- How do big farmers hope to pick the next crop? Carefully -- but with robots on February 17, 2019 at 3:51 pm
One February afternoon, they work about an acre apart on a farm the size of 454 football fields: dozens of pickers collecting produce the way people have for centuries - and a robot that engineers say ... […]
via Bing News