The potential of agriculture as a market for robotics

16 August 2010

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When I imagine robots tending land, it’s nearly always machines that are supported from above, on a beam that itself is supported by wheels running either on rails or in troughs that double as a delivery system for water, or on long legs that always only step on particular spots, so as to avoid compressing most of the surface, but in any case a machine capable of lifting even a record setting pumpkin or of uprooting small shrubs.


My interest is in improving agricultural practice, and I think robotics presents the approach most likely to serve that end, really the only approach with any chance of widespread success. (For me, robotic tractors are merely annoying, except as they help generate experience with autonomous navigation in an uncontrolled environment, applicable to other systems.)


Conversely, agriculture may be the largest potential market for robotics [in terms of revenue], one so large that it could drive the development of self-reconfiguring, self-reproducing robotic factories. This depends on the total cost of operation using robotic devices coming in below the total cost of operation using conventional methods, which includes increasingly expensive fuel for tractors (which might be replaced by solar-generated electricity in the robotic scenario).


I’m very encouraged to see robotics finally gathering momentum, and have hope that some of that momentum will find its way towards radically transforming agriculture.


Reposted from Cultibotics.

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John Payne

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