In the first of a series, Rebekah @ Sheffield Girls’ looks at Robotics. In this edition, Rebekah explores the world of robotics and farming.
Rising labour shortages and the increased need to feed the global population means that agricultural robots are becoming a reality on farms around the world. Some farmers also believe that they can be kinder to the environment by reducing the use of big tractors and instead use small robotic devices. Robots on farms will lead to more efficient energy use, reduced use of fertilizer and pesticide, more effective use of land, reduced environmental impact and enhanced cropping systems. Later we will meet 3 robots called Tom, Dick and Harry who are making this happen on a farm near you.
Why should we care?
We should care about where our food comes from and the environmental impact of farming. Clever technology is part of the answer to the problem and Britain is playing a part in creating the future.
The Tom robot lives on the farm and digitises the fields. He monitors them on a plant by plant basis, keeping track of the health and development of each plant.
Tom lives in a ‘Kennel’ on the farm. He returns to it when he is out of charge, and replaces his battery for a fully charged one. There he also downloads the gigabytes of data he has collected for analysis.
Tom is built to work alongside a comprehensive digital crop data model, in combination with Wilma, the AI driven operating system. It takes in all the farming knowledge, and applies it to the information gathered about the crop.
Tom knows exactly where the plants are, whether they have germinated and what they need. He suggests exactly what fertilizer and chemicals are needed to maximize the crop, and if the farmer agrees, calls out Dick and Harry to deliver it.
Dick is brought out to the farm when he is needed. Dick micro-sprays each plant with fertilizers or chemicals as required to help it thrive. Dick precisely sprays the plant and puts the fertilizer onto the roots. Dick also uses non chemical weed control to isolate each individual weed and eradicates them to stop them competing with the crop.
Dick has three ways to deal with weeds. He can micro-spray a tiny amount of the chemical on the weed, burn them, or crush the weed as it comes out of the ground.
Harry is the world’s first robotic drill for crops. He places individual seeds in the ground and accurately records exactly where he has placed them.
Harry gives driverless, super accurate drilling with minimal soil disturbance. Harry’s lightness will avoid churn and compaction, and bring the edges and corners of the fields back into full production.
Harry also records where he has planted every seed, and passes this information to Wilma (the Operating System) to make up the crop map.
When Wilma tells Harry that an individual seed hasn’t germinated, he is light enough and precise enough to replace it.