Agriculture Australia: Robots Aid Farmers for Higher Production
May 27, 2013
By Reissa Su
Using the latest in robotics technology, it’s now possible for drones and robots to help Australia grow food products.
Mantis and Shrimp are farming robots tested in the farmlands of Sydney. Developed by Salah Sukkarieh, a professor at the University of Sydney’s Robotics and Intelligent Systems, among the robots’ tasks is to check if the crops are ripe and ready for harvest, or if they need more fertilizer and water. The agricultural industry is vital to the Australian economy. The drones are designed to enhance productivity and reduce farming costs.
The robots are as tall as the average human with a set of wheels for mobility. They were named after the Mantis shrimp because they are capable of detecting color that will indicate whether the fruit is ripe or ready for harvest. The Mantis shrimp has color receptors and can recognize 12 colors.
In 2012, Australia’s food exports were worth $38.8 billion. Australia can greatly benefit from the robots since the country has a limited workforce and hourly minimum wage rate of $15. The country also stands to benefit from other types of drone technology like an unmanned plane to significantly improve efficiency.
The country also plans to tap Asian markets where the growing middle class demands more high quality food products. The new robotics technology is going to be a crucial factor to help the country maintain its position as a competitive player in agriculture. This is according to Luke Matthews from Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Matthews believes that it is necessary to open the doors for a change in new technology in line with the country’s vision of becoming Asia’s food basket.
Agriculture makes up 2% of the gross domestic product in Australia. It is predicted to rise to 5% by 2050. The government is pushing for the growth of the agricultural sector since the mining industry’s growth seems to be losing momentum.
Farm robots at work
A drone harvesting fruits may be a long way off for now but basic tasks are possible and complement current automatic technology of steering harvesters. Professor Sukkarieh is developing the next phase of the agricultural robots’ abilities. Complex tasks like watering and harvesting crops may soon be done with the aid of robots. International Business Times AU
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