Robots picking fruit and driving tractors?

Robots picking fruit and driving tractors?

By Emily Smith | 11th Jul 2015 6:00 AM

A STEREOTYPICAL farmer might wear overalls and gumboots in 2015.

But in not long at all, he could be a state-of-the-art robot.

Agricultural robotics research fellow Dr Christopher Lehnert spoke at CQUniversity yesterday about robots being developed to pick fruit and detect weeds.

One problem they could solve was harvesting labour shortages.

"It's a causal workforce problem. (For farmers) their really high risk is getting a workforce to pick the fruit," Mr Lehnert said.

"There's not a worry about job losses. We're just shifting the paradigm. Instead of being in the field, they will control robots."

He hoped to be well on the way towards a commercial fruit-picking design by the end of next year.

Another part of his research was designing robots for broadacre weed management.

"We are looking at taking the human out of the tractor and getting an autonomous platform," he said.

"The large machines they use on farms do a lot of damage to the soil. They compact the soils and destroy them.

"But robots would be smaller, they wouldn't cause this issue."

Problems with herbicide resistance are costing farms millions, but Dr Lehnert said robots could help solve this problem.

"You normally have to do a 'double knock' or multiple applications of herbicide.

"As the robot has a vision system on board it can detect the weed and apply herbicide or alternative mechanical methods to kill the weeds individually.

"Instead of blanket spraying the farm, you reduce your costs in herbicide use.

"This is close to commercial application."


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