Farming has always been about man, says David Dorhout, but man is now the limiting factor in agriculture. The future of farming is not about getting more efficiency out of each farmer--the human farmer has already been pretty well optimized by technology. Rather, the future is about getting more production out of each tract of farmland. The future, in other words, is Prospero, Dourhout's swarming, game-theory-crunching fleet of autonomous robo-farmers.
Prospero is a prototype for a larger, singular robotic organism that Dorhout is working toward in his spare time (he's an entomologist by trade and a roboticist by hobby, which makes him very good at his hobby). Right now, he's got a small fleet of six-legged robots capable of working together to optimize the planting of a given piece of farmland using swarm technology and software running game theory. Via infrared, the robots communicate with each other, marking places that have already been planted and signaling to each other when one needs help seeding a particular plot.
The result is a system that can optimize things like seed spacing and remember where each individual seed is planted. It can also make very good decisions about when and where to plant seeds based on varying soil types, even within the same field. It's essentially fully customizable seed planting on a foot-by-foot basis, Dorhout told Discovery News.
Moreover, Prospero is simple. Eschewing data-dense systems like GPS, Dorhout instead designed the Prospero bots to recall locations of seeds by simply talking to each other as they amble along. Following the model of ants, which mark places of interest (read: food) with pheromones so other ants can find them, he designed his 'bots to mark planted seeds with a shot of white spray paint that changes the reflectivity of the soil around the site. Other robots register this change in reflectivity, allowing them to see every seed in the field.
Prospero is just the beginning, Dorhout says. He wants to build a robot that can plant, maintain, and harvest an entire crop all autonomously and, more importantly, in the most efficient way possible. Robo-farmers could work around the clock to help keep a field in optimal conditions, fighting pests and other invasive plants without chemicals and increasing both crop yield and crop health. His six-legged robo-farmer is the first step. See Prospero in action, as well as Dorhout's robo-centric vision of the future of farming, in the video below.
Hand tools, power assisted tools, automatic tools and manufacturing, robotic tools and computers, robotic devices, slavery robotic tools attaché to a global network eventually becoming self aware and then
The ROBOT REVOLT BEGINS!
Science sees no further than what it can sense.
Religion sees beyond the senses.
Yes but do they speak the binary language of moisture vaporators?
"THEY TUK RRR JOB!"
lol. I was about to insert a Star Wars moisture farmer reference. I they do is use robots to farm.
the mechines will need to feed us slaves, i see this as a much needed future service, cheer
this might be a hit in 50 years. the cost for one of these full service machines would be around 5 million easy. and wouldnt last more than 5 years. farm work is hard grueling gritty work and thats just on the equipment. hope these things can swarm one out of getting stuck in the mud. id like to see a machine that can disk a field, fertilize it, build levees, install spills, maintain proper water levels, and harvest the crop all in one machine. not to mention farming rice is very different than cotton or corn or a vast number of other crops and require different equipment.
cant forget that all equipment breaks down on the job, hope these things can self repair. must be water tight also.
sorry i get a bit annoyed when people downplay the real level of intelligence it takes to be a good farmer. heavy equipment operator and mechanic, soil and weather expert, futures market analyst, chemist, and a damned good businessman up to date on current technology.
I absolutely 100% completely RESPECT and APPLAUD the AMERICAN FARMER or any FARMER anywhere!
Thank you FARMERS!!!
I am for giving you better tools; but I wish to never replace you too!
We need to build Hydroponic farms that aren't sensitive to severe weather conditions or require nutrient rich soil which gets depleted and has to rest. Build it out in the desert where you have ample sunlight and mild weather. the sunlight can even be filtered of it's infrared spectrum through prisms and lenses then fiber optically channeled to an indoor area that's devoid of harmful agents and humidified for optimal growth. Once you've established that then you can build robots within the controlled environment to maintain the planting and harvesting on a conveyor belt system. All the nutrients and water is recycled saving millions.
do you want to know why hydroponics don't work so well? it's because the same nutrients that the plants are supposed to get in the soil need to be in the water, and most of the time that is either impossible or disappointingly hard and costly.
soil farming isn't outdated at all, what is outdated is the cut and slash methods of the early farmers. with the right crop rotation the soil is never drained of all nutrients, and the biomass stays in the field to help next year's growth. this was figured out after the dust bowl years.
the next step in farming is farming every piece of land that we can, for instance the DOT (department of transportation) owns a lot of land surrounding highways, most of this land's only use is that it employs a grass cutter every month or so. it used to be that it couldn't be farmed because the land was in the form of long narrow strips. but now we can because we have robots! Cities have land that isn't used and should be put to the plow.
we also have a rising number of inmates in prison, the overcrowding is literally disabling some cities. however they aren't fixing any problems while they are in there. if they were any kind of smart they would have a prison that also owned a farm. if your not going to conform to societal standards you should at least learn to be productive. i speak from experience when i say that holding down a responsibility changes the way that you think. having that kind of responsibility keeps the new inmates from being around murderers rapists and thieves every waking moment of their lives and it provides a way for the repeat offenders to learn a skill that can stick with them for the rest of their lives.
to mars or bust!
the population will stabilise at 10 billin... Whats all about this dramatisation ... ?
the idea is great though ^^
that way we have more time to consentrate on the legalisation of violent video games... oh wait.... ^^
bored? lets go mine the stars... ^^
Correct, one of the best ways to maintain order in society is to have a job or some other responsibility. A major underlying cause of the revolution in Libya and Europe is because of high unemployment. If robots replace our jobs then what? People need a purpose and a great many people like working because it gives them a sense of contributing to something. Where would money come from to by stuff robots make? You would see massive social upheaval. Instead of trying to find ways for robots to replace us we should find a way to strike a balance between robots and humans. I could see these as crop tenders but a lot of fruit and vegetables require a human touch to prevent damage to them.
Science always asks "can we," but doesn't seem to ask "should we."
Concept of control of individual seed control is interesting.
Hardware might be up to proving concept on a very small scale for some specific crops. I think however, that the reflective paint concept is fraught with peril.
If the basic individual seed control concept is viable, you still have to develop a robo army that's rugged, reliable, and RAPID -- and, oh yeah, affordable. The prototype shown might not be the best approach.
You are going to tell me these robots will do a better job than the machines farmers are already using? What nonsense. Certainly there are tasks that a robot can do that other machines cannot, but sticking a seed into the ground is not one of them. This guy should first educate himself on what the state-of-the-art in farming is today, before suggesting a radical change in the process.
One good lesson of being in the military is busy work keep idle mines from doing wrong things.
As develop better technologies, make cheap products with automation and manufacturing, I often wonder if we add to crime, because we diminish the usefulness of man working with our hands.
Work is good for the mind, soul and spirit.
Sure, I want things cheap and I wish to be rich; but I also want purpose in life too.
the only kind of society where robots taking our jobs that would be actually workable is one where robots do EVERYTHING and we are able to basically live in a utopia of a society. No humans work all play but there is no money no cost every one gets what they need but this will never happen...people are to afraid of being socialist and then the rich people are to afraid of not being in power.
Robots are nice. But they use a lot of ENERGY. If we don't come up with more sources of energy, the robots will be idle and we will be doing the farming with mules.
I was going to harp on about the glorious benefits of getting people back onto the land and doing an honest days labor. Clearly this is a shared sentiment.
Robots in the future will run off cheap cigars and booze.
Science always asks "can we," but doesn't seem to ask "should we."
What if it rains??
This is how humans can end world hunger! The robots are too expensive right now, but with further developments and mass production of the robots we could feed every person on Earth.
I am a missionary volunteer working in Peru to help indigenous people farm their mountainous lands to help them achieve prosperity and independence by growing ancestral crops which are not only healthy, but profitable.
Hard work is the only other alternative to help these people - hard work of the ones who teach them and hard work of the land owners.
These robotic assistants can make the difference between survival and struggle for people all over the globe.
World hunger never ends cause population growth is continuous while earth only has a limited resource. More food supplies usually means more reasons to procreate for the population, unless their culture supports the upheaval of liberated and self-aware women who can actively curtail an explosive population growth.
Bottomline is, you can't fix world hunger without first addressing the issues of reproductive health and overpopulation. But yea, robots and vertical farms for the win.