Move over autonomous self-driving tractors. Move over crop scouting drones. A new technology could take U.S. farmers by swarm in the future.
If one Australian company has its way, swarms of robots could soon be spraying row crop fields not just in Australia, but across the world.
SwarmFarm Robotics, a company based in Queensland, Australia, has developed a robot that is designed to work in a team to spray crops in swarms. The founder, Andrew Bate, dreamed up the idea as he drove his tractor through his wheat paddock.
He thought that instead of using just one tractor to do the work, why not have a group of machines go across the field all at once?
Over the course of five years, Bate developed his idea into an autonomous, collision-avoiding robot that can work in tandem with others of its kind to simultaneously spray a field. Now, the work is complete, and Bate introduced the technology to the commercial market in March.
“This is industry changing,” Bate told ABC News. “We aren’t automating stuff, we are creating robotics systems, and it’s a whole new playing field that we are moving onto.”
The concept of using robotics in agriculture is not new, and in fact, is actually gaining traction as farmers across the world look for more ways to use technology to help them produce crops more efficiently.
One of the drivers for developing the autonomous crop-spraying robots was the lack of labor available in Bate’s area. Labor challenges are a growing concern for many industrialized nations and the crop-spraying robots are one way to solve the problem. In the future, Bate says the robots will be able to fertilizer and harvest crops as well as spray them.
Also, like unmanned aerial vehicles, these agricultural robots can have sensors and other actuator fields added to them. Another positive to these robots is the fact that they are lighter weight than many agricultural equipment machinery. This could provide benefits in terms of less soil compaction and disturbance to the soil.