Article – An army of robots to replace our farmers?

Centuries of technological developments have led to high agricultural productivity. What will happen when it does begin to level off? A passionate American has developed robots , called Prospero, optimizing seeding in the agricultural parcels to delay this deadline. His model: the insects !

Prospero could help farmers increase the yield of their land through better seeding. Prospero's brain comprises a processor with 8 cores and 32 bits produced by Parallax. © David Dorhout

There are hundred thousands to work every day to produce fruits, vegetables and grains necessary for our health. To achieve this, farmers can rely on several centuries of evolution of their tools. Unfortunately, come a day when they reach peak performance. Yet the world’s population continue to grow and it will be necessary to feed them.

To help farmers, an American entomologist, David Dorhout, has developed autonomous robots capable of improving the performance of agricultural land (not the work of producers) by optimizing seeding techniques. The inventor was inspired by the social behavior of many insects to design the robot, named Prospero , working in groups. They communicate by infrared and move in groups to disperse the seeds.

Despite their close cooperation, the robots know how to take certain decisions individually. The soil is studied by each robot before the burial of a seed. Based on the results, automata choose to continue or not their operations. They also determine the number of seeds to plant per unit of area. The distance between seedlings can vary within a field.

The pheromones of ants, model robots Prospero

To avoid the same area to be planted several times, each robot marks the position of the seeds with a white dot. Other devices detect this information and then pass their way. Dorhout David was inspired by the chemical communication in ants to develop this process. When ants locate a point of interest, they release a pheromone , replaced by color in robots, used as a benchmark for others.

The author wanted the concept to produce a simple and as inexpensive as possible. The robots are equipped with GPS , which requires data flows fairly consistent. They work and are located only in communicating with each other.

Only the robots planters have been developed to date. They are, moreover, that prototypes which will surely continue to evolve in the years to come. David Dorhout now wishes to develop robots that can maintain and harvest the crops. The ultimate goal is to produce a autonomous device that can sow the seeds, maintain and harvest the fields of production.

Robots specializing in the fight against the pest organisms and invasive plants could also replace the use of chemicals and improve the quality of plant production.

The autonomy of machines is limited. The inventor could develop a robot nurse. It would be equipped with a generator hybrid allowing it to recharge the robot-farmers in action.

The advantages of these devices are numerous. The increased yields of a few percent per hectare would allow farmers to significantly increase their production.


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