Friday, November 30, 2012


Urban migration that is taking place in many countries has adverse implications on food security of the world. This is especially true in many developing countries where agricultural activities are concentrated in rural areas where a majority of the population reside. If the past trend in a country like USA is taken into consideration, a time will come when less than 10% of the country's population will have to raise foods for the rest. How can this be done? Land consolidation is bound to take place for making agricultural activity economically more viable and with fewer hands available for carrying out field operations, more and more mechanized contraptions will come into play to sustain food production. Mechanized cultivation so far involved preparing the land, sowing, de-weeding, harvesting, threshing, storage and milling. In all these operations some human involvement is absolutely necessary to operate the machinery. But according to some visionaries even humans will be eventually replaced with advanced robots with multiple functions and versatile capabilities. Here is a take on this exciting future scenario.

"David Dorhout currently works in the biotech industry, but his side project and passion for the last few years has been robotics. Built as the test platform for a larger robotic farming system, Prospero is just one of what will eventually become a swarm of planting, tending, and harvesting robots made to optimize every inch of arable space in a given field. Prospero is a prototype for robotic organism that Dorhout is currently developing. Right now, he's got a small fleet of six-legged robots capable of working together to optimize the planting of a given piece of farmland using swarm technology and software running game theory. The robots communicate with each other via infrared, marking places that have already been planted and signaling to each other when one needs help seeding a particular plot. Prospero is just the beginning, Dorhout told He aims to build a robot that can plant, maintain, and harvest an entire crop all autonomously and, more importantly, in the most efficient way possible. Swarms of Robo-farmers could work around the clock to help keep a field in optimal conditions, fighting pests and other invasive plants without chemicals and increasing both crop yield and crop health. His current six-legged robo-farmer is the first step in what might radically change our approach to agriculture. See Prospero in action, as well as Dorhout's robo-centric vision of the future of farming, in the video below".

While robots are extensively used these days for operating in unbearable working conditions and in non-food manufacturing operations, they have not made any significant impact on the food processing floor. There are a few advocates of use of robots on the processing floor for better safety of products but their use in the field for agricultural operations is some what far fetched, though not impossible. This is an age where robots are replacing man in many endeavors and agriculture is bound to succumb to the versatility of robots  one day or the other. Wait and see.


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