My following article below was originally published by SERIOUS WONDER:
Robots are going to steal your job, but that’s okay, because they’ll be liberating us away from boring, strenuous and monotonous labor and give us far more time in doing what we truly want to do. Agriculture will not be an exception, and is in fact moving fast in becoming a model of what the entire workforce will eventually transform into. In today’s age, we’ll be witnessing the coupling of the agricultural revolution with the industrial revolution – robotic farming.
From drones to autonomous tractors, robotic farming is here to stay and (dare I say it?) grow! Researchers of the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, located at the University of Sydney, has recently introduced the latest family member in the field of farm ‘bots known as the Ladybird – an autonomous data collecting and analyzing vehicle.
Serious Wonder was able to briefly speak with Professor Salah Sukkarieh, the lead researcher in project Ladybird, to which he stated:
“Ladybird is a completely new approach to agriculture robotics. The focus is not simply to automate tasks such as spraying, weeding and harvesting, but to also provide a system that can provide continuous information about the state of the farm such as the health of crops and soil and appropriate timing for other crop activities such as when and what to harvest.” – Prof. Salah Sukkarieh
The Ladybird is an omnidirectional, self-driving vehicle with three goals in mind: collect data, analyze data, and harvest. The current model of the Ladybird primarily only collects and analyzes data, from crop yields, health, pest infestation, etc. The vehicle is able to accomplish this with its laser-guided sensors as it traverses the entire field, one row at a time. To maintain energy, the vehicle’s top layer is surrounded by photovoltaic panels.
With the Ladybird’s ability to scan entire fields at a micrometer resolution, the 3D modeled maps allows the detection and segregation of selected crops from weeds, alongside the crop’s health. As a result, the farmer is able to use the most efficient amount of data available without having to personally inspect the entire field, which could take several hours, if not days depending on the size of the field.
As Professor Sukkarieh notes, soon we’ll begin witnessing a fully integrated, interconnected relationship between all of the farm ‘bots and farmer.
“The robot will have advance levels of intelligence allowing it to communicate to the wider farm system and hence support optimal operations. In a few years we will see robot-to-robot, robot-to-tractor, and robot-to-grower communication happening at advance levels and ultimately complete automation and optimisation of farm operations.” – Prof. Salah Sukkarieh
The Ladybird is an amazing piece of machinery, but it still has much more room to improve. And improve it will! Agriculture has a strong history of being front and center in revolutionary societal change, starting with the agricultural revolution. Today we’re witnessing agriculture’s second revolution with the help of advanced robotics.
Soon no humans will need to be present for, or even within operations of, our crop production, as it’ll quickly be fully controlled by smart autonomous robots and A.I. systems. Neo-Luddites today are already uptight about humans genetically modifying our crops. Imagine how they’ll react when robots take control of the modifying instead?!