Are industrial robots bringing any benefits to the agricultural sector?
Agriculture was and still is one of the most important industries worldwide. It is the sector that feeds both people and animals, and it helps the human kind survive. But, considering that the recent studies show that by 2050 the Earth’s population will reach 9 billion, the agricultural sector has to make efforts to keep up. Some specialists state that it will be quite difficult to double the agricultural production, because the planet offers only a limited arable land, and other strategies are required to increase the amount of food, the agricultural sector produces.
One of the strategies used to increase the productivity of the agricultural industry is to start using robots. Agriculture is being revolutionized with the help of automation and robots, but in order to better understand, how they will help the planet offer the amount of food the humankind will need in the future, it is important to see what applications they have for this industry.
Everything starts with the farming sector, because this is where the food journey begins. The farming industry deals with a serious problem, the lack of human workforce. Therefore, the robotics has become necessary, without it, the agricultural sector will not be able to meet the requirements of the market.
Industrial robots are used for nursery planting
Some people may be surprised to find out that the term nursery is used in the agricultural industry, but the nurseries are the places where seeds are grown into young plants and in order for them to be healthy and to grow into strong plants, they need extra care and attention, similar with a baby. When they reach a certain age, depending on their type, they are planted outside.
There are times when the plants from the nursery are sold to people and farms, because they are the starting point, in the journey of certain crops. The nursery-planting sector is in great need of automation, because it would increase its productivity. If the process is automated, the seeding and potting actions would be more effective.
Automotive processes are used for crop seeding
The life of some plants starts with a seed planted in the soil. For seeding the crops, a traditional method is widely used; a tractor throws the seeds around the field, being driven at a steady pace. But farmers state that it is not very effective, because many seeds do not get inside the soil. In order to solve this issue automated robots are used. They have geo-mapping features that help them create a map according to characteristics like density and quality. The robot is attached to the tractor and the seeds are planted to various depths and locations, according to the characteristics of the soil.
The crops are supervised and checked with the help of robotics
Checking the state of a large field of crops is a difficult task. In order for the farmers to have complete data about their crops, automated technologies are used. Certain companies are specialised in offering farmers robots that include analysis software, this means that they can use specialised drones to monitor the fields and check the state of the crops in real time. Also, some farmers are using ground based robots, because they are placed in the middle of the fields, and they can offer detailed information about its state. Depending on the needs of the crops, some robots can be used even for tasks like fertilizing and weeding.
Automated robots are used for irrigation and fertilization
As stated before, industrial robots are used to fertilize and irrigate the fields. This solution has been adopted after farmers have noticed that they were using an immense amount of water for these tasks, and the results were still ineffective. Nowadays, automated systems are used to improve the precision of these processes, and to reduce the quantity of water. Different plants have different needs in terms of irrigation and fertilization, and this machinery can adapt according to their needs. For this task, ground robots are used to navigate around the fields and to pour water directly at the base of the crops.
Some crops, like the corn ones have difficulties in getting the needed fertilization and irrigation, because they are not easy to access to some pieces of machinery. For solving this issue, special robots have been designed that target the base of each plant and they offer it the needed water and nutrients.
Industrial robots are helpful during the spraying and weeding processes
Lately, more and more studies show that it is very harmful to the environment to spray weed killers and pesticides onto fields. But automated machines are able to do this action in an effective way. They function according to the micro-spaying concept, and this can bring numerous advantages to the environment, because the amount of chemicals that gets into nature is reduced. Industrial robots are used to identify the weeds and to spray on them the exact quantity of herbicide, needed to kill them.
Some of the robots used in agriculture nowadays do not use chemicals to remove the weed, they uproot the weeds or laser kill them.
Pruning and thinning were revolutionised
The action of thinning is crucial for certain crops, because it improves the plants’ growing potential. Some plants need to be removed in order for the others to have a better chance to grow. In addition, other plants need some of their own parts removed in order to grow better, the process is called pruning. Nowadays, many farmers are using robots to detect what plants have to be removed in other for the crops to grow healthy and strong. When it comes to pruning, it is a more complex task, but highly essential in domains like the wine industry. But, the tech industry has introduced on the market machines that are able to prune grape vines. These robots are also used for the crops of blueberries.
It is important to note that many robots are attached to tractors in order to complete the tasks. A human drives the tractor and adapts the speed according to the task they have to complete.