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Robot Farmers Preparing For Future Invasion

Amid labor shortages and rising global demand for food, companies are developing better and smarter robots to fill gaps and boost production in the field.

An automated  gardening  robot  tends to a raised bed.

Photo: FarmBot (Wikimedia)

Farmbot is an open-source gardener that automatically seeds, tests soil, weeds and waters plants with precision.

An army of robot farm workers is mustering for a global takeover.

The number of American farm workers is dwindling, with one 2015 study from the New American Economy showing that the number of new field and crop workers immigrating to the United States fell 75 percent from 2002 to 2012.

Compound that with rising concern over a global population boom and food security, along with new aggressive immigration restrictions under President Trump, and a future with droid farmers working U.S. fields starts to look more likely.

In Salinas Valley, California, tech companies have been developing machines that can harvest lettuce using high pressure water jets, soil sensors to control automated irrigation, and other precision farming tools.

Five years ago, public high schools in Salinas valley, which boasts an $8 billion agriculture industry, had no computer science classes.

After a loss of 900 jobs in the banking industry there, a wealthy orchard farmer ponied up $2.9 million to start a three-year computer science program to focus on agriculture technology.

Automated farm tools can help curb resource issues like water shortages and soil degradation.

Blue River Technologies, a California-based company, has raised $17 million from ag-industry giants Syngenta, Monsanto and Innovation Endeavors to develop tractor-towed machines that can determine an individual plant’s needs and apply targeted treatment, reducing the use of chemicals.

Britain has seen a similar farm labor shortage after the country’s exit from the European Union. Researchers have developed an agricultural robot named Thorvald to fill the gaps. Thorvald can carry trays of strawberries and kills mildew by passing over crops with ultraviolet lights at night.

Read More:

  • Robots Wielding Water Knives Are The Future Of Farming (Wired)
  • Salinas Hopes To Turn Farm Workers’ Children Into Computer Scientists (LA Times)
  • Farm Robots Ready To Fill Britain’s Post-EU Labour Shortage (Financial Times)
Chad Bouchard

Chad Bouchard is a veteran reporter and WFIU alum who has covered wild and wooly beats from Indonesia to Capitol Hill. His radio work has aired on NPR, PRI and Voice of America, and his writing has appeared in The Sunday Telegraph and Scientific American’s health magazine, Lives. He has also spent a lifetime gardening, foraging and eating weird stuff.

View all posts by this author »

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