Imagine a driverless tractor that can go along the rows of an orchard, observing the surroundings and creating a 3D map that takes account of the position and condition of each single plant, fruit and centimetre of the ground. Imagine that it can identify any disease or deficiency of each plant, the degree of ripeness of each individual fruit and the condition of soil. Imagine that it can meet the needs of each plant by spraying, irrigating or harvesting fruits, operating without the presence of a human inside the tractor. Welcome to the farm of the future, currently being developed at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR) in Sydney, a pioneering centre in robotic farming.
The team led by Professor Salah Sukkarieh is working on a project that can automate many agricultural operations, considerably improving efficiency, yield and farmers’ safety.
“Many people imagine Australian agriculture like a food bowl supplying the Asian growing population - explains the Professor - a population that is unable to meet the demand for fresh produce due to insufficient arable land, infrastructure and technologies". Australia has a great economic opportunity and robotics can act as a catalyst for this development, thanks to agricultural robotic devices that are specially designed to increase efficiency and yield.
It is not surprising that the Centre has attracted interest both from the Australian farming community - for the objective benefits that robotics and automation can bring to the entire production process - and the international community. The latest projects include a pilotless aircraft that can identify invasive weeds in remote locations and spray herbicide in a targeted manner.
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