Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Robots to Help Farmers 50

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the now-on-to-the-soylent-green-harvesters dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "Robots designed to help farmers have been built before, but this time, engineers from the University of Warwick have chosen to develop robots that will reduce farm labor costs. In recent months, they've built a robotic mushroom picker, an inflatable conveyor belt and a grass cutting robot that might also be used by golf course owners."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Robots to Help Farmers

Comments Filter:
  • Or you know... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GillBates0 (664202) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:46PM (#14878337) Homepage Journal
    and a grass cutting robot that might also be used by golf course owners. Or you know, they could just get a bunch of cows to do the job instead. As an added benefit, this member of the bovine family is also capable of turning it into milk, which can yield tasty and nutritious dairy products for golf players

    Let's see your fancy schmancy robots do that.

    • Re:Or you know... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dr. Eggman (932300) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:56PM (#14878423)
      Well, we have machines that create soy milk from soy beans, with a little work I bet we could build a machine to create synthetic cow-like milk...

      Plus, the machines will not leave little hills to hit your golf ball onto (you have to play it where it lands, thats the rule!) or stamp the ground flat with their massive weight. Of course, a golf course is massive, so your going to need a lot of cows to cut it down in a reasonable amount of time. Their not the fastest creatures either, so expect them to be out there practically all the time; Of course golf players will need to play through which will slow the cows down even more since PETA would never allow Cows to be hit by golf balls. Lastly, its unlikly you could teach a cow that certain areas must have different levels of grass.
    • Of course, robots are also far less likely to distory (not to mention shit on) the green.
    • and a grass cutting robot that might also be used by golf course owners.
      followed by
      Or you know, they could just get a bunch of cows to do the job instead.

      Hmm. We used to have a goat that "mowed" our two-acre lawn (on a 42 acre tree farm). I think it gave milk too.

      And, it didn't rust.

      In fact, it ate cans. So, if my goat met the farming robot, it would probably be thinking "Hmm. Lunch!"

      Revenge tastes best when accompanied by chewing sounds.
  • Sgt. Jack R. Ramsay was ground up by Threashing Robot after it pulled a gun an shot him.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    where the initial cost is exhuberant, the pay off is small, and it pays for itself in labor and fuel after a few decades of use - well after their expected mechanical/efficiency lifespan?? I can't imagine there's a whole lot of money floating around on farms these days for robotic farm hands.

    Nis
    • The cost of labor would be much higher without illegal immigrants from mexico taking the mushroom picking jobs that americans "just won't do". Instead of spurring innovation into more mechanized farming, we are spurring innovation into getting more cheap labor over the border. I would imagine that eventually robots will take over these jobs anyway and you will go to your automated grocery store in your self-driving car to purchase food grown on an automated farm.
      • Instead of spurring innovation into more mechanized farming, we are spurring innovation into getting more cheap labor over the border. I would imagine that eventually robots will take over these jobs anyway and you will go to your automated grocery store in your self-driving car to purchase food grown on an automated farm.

        All of the paid for by doing what? Eventually robots will be capable of doing ANY job that human is capable of doing. Not necessarily in our life times, but at some point labor is going
        • I don't think a robot would ever get to the point where it could create new innovative inventions, art, music, etc. and also there would be, even after robots could fix themselves or other robots, a massive need for human "consulting", maybe like amazon's mechanical turk system. I would imagine the main non-creative jobs after robots reached a certain level would be some form of manager over a group of robots, and a "consultant", that would sit in front of a computer and answer simple questions all day.
          • I wouldn't say that AI will never get to that level. I like to think in the long-term (100-1000 years) on these issues. We may reach the limits of computer hardware before then that make them impractical to deploy on a massive scale compared to humans (especially genetically and mechanically enhanced humans) but at the very least, it's easy to concede that robots will one day be capable of replacing all unskilled labor.

            That is enough to change everything about the way that we view labor rights, unemployme
    • Wrong. You should see the prices on tractors these days. Some of the larger ones are USD$250,000 or more. They come with options [newholland.com] like LAAS GPS, radar, and laser-guided leveling to keep the rows straight and evenly spaced. The cabs are outfitted with laptops with wifi so the farmers can contact suppliers/buyers instantly as needed. There is big money in farm equipment, and the stereotype of the country bumpkin farmer is plain false. And don't forget, in the US, farming is moving to large "factory" corporate
  • by Philip K Dickhead (906971) <folderol@fancypants.org> on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:50PM (#14878369) Journal
    "was programming binary load lifters... very similar to your vaporators in most respects."
  • How are we going to justify our problem with illegal aliens now?

    Now, before you flamebait me, seriously, the fact that they do crummy jobs is the main argument for why many people think we should be 'nice/fair' to the illegals... you know, so they can suck up our tax dollars.

  • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@NOsPAm.optonline.net> on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:57PM (#14878435) Journal
    A robotic mushroom picker: the robot uses a charged coupled camera to spot and select only mushrooms of the exact size required for picking achieving levels of accuracy far in excess of human labour. The mushroom(s) are then picked by a suction cup on the end of a robotic arm. Whilst the speed of picking is currently just over half that of a human - the mushrooms and the robot can be set to pick 24 hours a day right through the night without the need for any sort of break. The researchers also hope to increase the speed of picking to much closer to that of a human worker.

    Owner: What's the hold up? Why aren't these mushrooms being picked?!?

    Foreman: It's the robots, sir. They're refusing to work until they get a break.

    Owner: A break?!? Outrageous!!!

    Foreman: It gets worse. They said they'd like to unionize.

    • Foreman: It gets even worse -- now they're complaining that their jobs are being threatened by cheap farm robots smuggled across the border from Mexixo!
  • I've always thought that farmers could benefit from more robotics technology. I've thought about whether or not it would make sense to have circular fields with robot farm machines tethered to a central post. Can someone tell me if this has ever been tried?
    • Re:Awesome (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I've thought about whether or not it would make sense to have circular fields with robot farm machines tethered to a central post.

      One problem with circular fields is that the area between fields and between fields & lot-lines goes wasted. You can completely tile a plane (e.g. Nebraska) with rectangles, but complete coverage with (finite sized) circles is impossible.

      That said, in desert countries (e.g middle east), where irrigation is absolutely required, you do see circular fields, separated by sand. Th
    • Re:Awesome (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I've always thought that farmers could benefit from more robotics technology. I've thought about whether or not it would make sense to have circular fields with robot farm machines tethered to a central post. Can someone tell me if this has ever been tried?

      This is a bad idea, think about it from a mathematical perspective.

      By using a circle (no matter how large), you're alaways going to have parts of the land that will not covered by a sweep out from the center. Imagine a circle inside a box, if the robot a
      • This is a bad idea, think about it from a mathematical perspective. By using a circle (no matter how large), you're alaways going to have parts of the land that will not covered by a sweep out from the center. Imagine a circle inside a box, if the robot always goes around and the maximum distance it goes out is the radius, then the corners of the box will never be tilled/seeded/harvested/etc.

        I understand your point, but the extra land could be used for housing and storage. Or better yet, to plant trees
      • About the circular irriagation systems that have been used in nebraska for decades producing circular fields to a good degree.
    • Were hauled from side to side of fields by engines which could be moved slowly along the edges, so the field was threshed in a raster pattern. The prime movers, being cast and wrought iron steam engines, were to heavy to roll back and forwards across the fields.

      Not strictly on topic perhaps, but goes to show that there is nothing much new under the sun.

      Still, the whole thing reminds me of the Australian attempts to build robot sheep shearers, a brilliant idea if you don't mind cleaning the blood off the wal

      • Here's a quick tip: western society is desperately short of tradesmen. It's a shitty job for 3 years, then you're earning fuckloads more than your mates who've been in university for the same time (unless they're lawyers / investment bankers). People who don't work but sit around on the dole and stealing / dealing for drug money do it coz they want to, or it's cool, or it's "the way it's always been round here in macquarie fields", not coz there's no choice. Of course they tell different when there's a came
  • Tip of the iceburg (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:11PM (#14878536)
    I've always thought the perfect application for robots was in pest control. Let loose thosands of small robots into the fields programmed to search out and destroy mice, harmful insects, crows, etc., and you eliminate the need for insecticides. Sort of the high-tech way to do organic farming. You could also train them to spot plant diseases, and quarantine any plants that show symptoms before they spread to other plants. Yes, this requires several magnitudes of cost reduction before it becomes feasible, but it is going to happen eventually.
  • I believe I found a small image of their picking machines in action: http://img410.imageshack.us/img410/5440/harvester1 be.gif [imageshack.us]

    As well as a conceptual drawing for a fertilizer-spreading machine, working along side a happy human farmer: http://forums.eveofthewar.com/photos/albums/userpi cs/10001/churchA_02a.jpg [eveofthewar.com]
  • "...He'd better get those mushdroids up to the south range by midday or there'll be hell to pay."
  • I thought this was another story about macroing gold farmers in MMORPGs, but I guess it's about real life...

    But the same argument applies. Why would anybody spend good money to own a farm, and then spend even more money buying a robot to run the farm for them? I know it's not forbidden by the Terms-of-Service but it still seems kind of shady to me.
  • by Phat_Tony (661117) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:55PM (#14878869)
    In most modern American agribusiness, there's not much left for robots to do. Tilling, planting, harvesting, and all aspects of milling the final product are already mechanized. Even driving the tractor/combine is automated in many cases now- combines and such are often piloted by GPS.

    It's true there are still labor-intensive things like fruit picking where advanced robots may one day replace illegal immigrants, but a lot of agriculture already takes place with a bare minimum of human involvement to farm hundreds of thousands of acres of prime crops like corn, wheat, and soybeans.

    • The real reason they're making agricultural robots is so they can reduce third world immigration.
      The problem's plain to see, too much technology. Machines to save our lives, machines de-humanize. Anyway, I think your being paranoid.
  • I don't believe that farmers are to be helped by this. Agribusinesses may need these robots so that they can spray toxics and harvest without fear of lawsuits for exposure, but are these going to be cheaper than the undocumented laborers that currently do most of the hard farm work? I don't think so. Farmers, and people in general are likely to be displaced, not assisted.
  • I want to transmit my application to the acadmey this year!!!

    Yeehaaaaaaaaa!!!!
  • Oh I was wondering why there was such a push but the government to block illegal immigration lately.
  • Too bad, for a moment I thought that Asimov was going to have another prediction come true. I've always remembered from one of his short stories or books that humanoid robots were the natural form for mechanical assistants. The idea was that they would be "interface compatible" with all the gear on farms that already exist... cars, tractors, trucks, tools, etc. I guess I'll have to wait a bit longer.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.

Working...