Robots take over farms faster than expected

10-09-2019    18:50   |    Goedemorgen

Robots are taking over farms faster than anyone saw coming, as the first fully autonomous farm equipment is becoming commercially available, meaning machines will be able to completely take over a multitude of tasks.

Robots are taking over farms faster than anyone saw coming, as the first fully autonomous farm equipment is becoming commercially available, meaning machines will be able to completely take over a multitude of tasks.

Tractors will drive with no farmer in the cab and specialised equipment will be able to spray, plant, plow and weed cropland. And it is all happening well before many analysts had predicted thanks to small start-ups in Canada and Australia.

While industry leaders Deere and CNH Industrial have not said when they will release similar offerings, Saskatchewan's Dot Technology has already sold some so-called power platforms for fully mechanised spring planting.

In Australia, SwarmFarm Robotics is leasing weed-killing robots that can also do tasks like mow and spread. The companies has said their machines are smaller and smarter than the gigantic machinery they aim to replace.

Sam Bradford, a farm manager at Arcturus Downs in Australia's Queensland state, was an early adopter as part of a pilot programme for SwarmFarm last year. He used four robots, each about the size of a truck, to kill weeds.

In years past, Mr Bradford had used a 120-foot wide, 16-ton spraying machine that "looks like a massive praying mantis". It would blanket the field in chemicals, he said.

But the robots were more precise. They distinguished the dull brown colour of the farm's paddock from green foliage and targeted chemicals directly at the weeds. It is a task the farm does two to three times a year over 20,000 acres. With the robots, Mr Bradford said he can save 80 per cent of his chemical costs.

"The savings on chemicals is huge, but there's also savings for the environment from using less chemicals and you're also getting a better result in the end," said Mr Bradford, who has run the farm for about 10 years. Surrounding rivers run out to the Great Barrier Reef off Australia's eastern cost, making the farm particularly sensitive over its use of chemicals, he said.

Click here to read the complete article at INDEPENDENT.

Photo Credit: Denis Balibouse, REUTERS


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