If you look at the current state of agriculture, and also at the preponderance of robotics work related to it, there isn’t much encouragement to be found for a vision of machines bringing better practices to bear on land management, and most of what there is is happening in [Europe], not here in the U.S.
Well, so be it, for now. There is good work being done, and as the variety of off-the-shelf robotic parts continues to increase, the power/price of computer equipment continues to rise steeply, and the economics of current agricultural practice continues to degenerate with rising costs for fuel and other inputs, the scene is gradually being set for a profound transformation in the way we use land to produce food, fiber, and plant materials for the production of synthetic fuels.
There is a danger that we won’t get serious about that transformation until the breakdown of current practice is far enough along to cause serious disruption and pain. There is also danger that robotics will first be used to put off real change as long as possible, by simply displacing what few humans remain in an otherwise essentially unchanged system.
On the other hand, there is plenty of opportunity to go around, especially for those who get in on the ground floor and develop the necessary technology to augment generic robotics and create energy-efficient machines designed to perform detailed management of productive land in ways that enhance fertility and repair ecological damage.
The demand for agricultural production isn’t going to go away, but we can dramatically change and radically improve the way we go about meeting it, with a far greater return on the R&D dollar than, for example, missile-bearing robotic helicopters.
Reposted from Cultibotics.