Editorial Feature

Precision Agricultural Robotics

Precision agriculture is a farming strategy that involves optimizing returns on inputs and varying cultivation methods including tillage, planting, harvesting and application of fertilizers, seeds, wastes and pesticides to meet the crop conditions across the field. It depends on the latest technologies such as geospatial tools, satellite imagery, etc.

This method allows the farmers to locate a precise position for farming in the field with the help of a satellite positioning system like GPS. This approach can also identify critical factors that affect yield and determine intrinsic spatial variability. It also ensures that the variations in soil properties or crops are identified and mapped so that immediate measures can be taken.

Several autonomous-guided robotic vehicles have been developed to carry out automatic de-weeding of agricultural fields. Precision agriculture mostly involves complex processes that could only be implemented using machines. Therefore, precision agricultural robots not only combat the problems of de-weeding, but also perform the complex processes of precision agriculture to improve the crop yield to a large extent.

Design of Precision Agricultural Robots

Fully autonomous robotic systems that look like tractors perform operations such as making the soil compact and reducing porosity of the soil. The robot navigates the field and interprets the assigned task. It helps the farmers by blowing weed, applying chemical or harvesting the crop, and includes navigation systems to locate themselves.

This robot also employs cameras to pick green plants from the soil. Elimination of weeds is important as weed growth reduces the crop yield by more than 50%. Hence the robots are fitted with a precision spraying system that distributes herbicides onto the crops. In addition, the utilization of sensors in this robotic system can monitor the nutrient levels of plants and supply fertilizer as per required.

Advantages of Precision Agricultural Robots

The major advantages of precision agricultural robots include the following:

  • Light weight
  • Labor-saving
  • Reduce carbon dioxide emissions
  • Increase the crop yield
  • Minimize wastage of fertilizer
  • Inexpensive to use
  • Eliminate weeds.

Products on the Market - Advancement

Globally, the precision agricultural robot market is witnessing increased investments due to the development of novel, enhanced and technologically advanced robots. A number of well-established and start-up companies are increasingly investing in the development of agricultural applications. Some of the precision agricultural robots that are commercially available in the market include the following:

AutoProbe

The AutoProbe developed by AgRobotics is a precision-agriculture robotic system that offers modern soil service to increase the cost-savings and crop yield. It also provides efficient, consistent, accurate and faster soil analysis than any other commercially available equipment. This automated system features a 6’ deep probe and collects sample in short space of time compared to semi-automatic or manual sampling.

The AutoProbe conveys the sample pneumatically to the UV cab and automatically packs them into the soil lab sample boxes. A single sample collected within a minute would contain nearly 20 cores. It guides itself through auto-steering technology and allows the operator to follow a pre-designated path.

The key benefits of the AutoProbe include the following:

  • It is capable of sampling 150 acres within an hour
  • It generates a quality sample every 45s and sends it to cabs
  • High yield
  • Low cost
  • Increased return.

BoniRob

BoniRob, developed by Amazonen-Werke in association with Robert Bosch GmbH, Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences and other partners, is an autonomous field robot that is equipped with a global positioning system (GPS) and agro-sensors with spectral imaging technology.

The robot includes a quick-change device for use in sensors and a chassis with an individual wheel drive that provides a wide range of options including track widths between 75 and 200 cm and adjustable ground clearance between 40 and 80 cm.

It can navigate independently and locate GPS positions of individual plants, map the locations and record them. This system can automatically determine and monitor the growth states of plants continuously.

The major advantages of BoniRob include the following:

  • It aids plant breeders by automatically acquiring measured data of many plants
  • Highly efficient
  • Rapidly produces the output
  • Eliminate weeds
  • It selectively applies fertilizer.

Sources and Further Reading

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