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Agricultural Equipment Advances

Updated on April 22, 2012

Man has always had a vested interest in letting machines do the work on the farm, saving time which could be better spent idling or making more investments into other profitable ventures. At the very least machines would improve efficiency, allowing them to scrape out a living in a scarce and desolate landscape. Therein the difference between subsistence farming and commercial agriculture. Either could benefit from technological advances in agri-technology. At their most fundamental essence, they take the toil and tedium out of farming through automation.

From history, there has been several distinct predecessors to the fruit growing, hydroponics technologies or aeroponic technology being used in urban farms today. For example in the early 1800s, the mechanical reaper was invented in Virginia based on the ideas laid around but not yet taken form. It slowly became popular and now you wouldn't see a farm that could use reapers without a mechanical reaper. In a day, it could harvest as many crops as 10 people taking tiny hooks in the farm could. Technological upgrades allowed it to do more, adding more processes into the farming chain. Today the driver seat is like most automobiles, air conditioned, that is a farmer farming in comfort. There are even GPS systems installed now to harness modern theories on plantation formations to guide the planting movements. These machines can cost up to 600,000 USD.

In every form of farming that involves growing crops, man would try to look for some ways to automate it. There are however difficulties in that different plants grow differently or are sought for different parts. Some common examples of the difficult ones are in the strawberry, apples and oranges markets. Unlike factory line work for car manufacturing where every part is about the same, and moves at the same speed, these kinds of fruits are of a different shape, of a different ripeness and hue, and have different weights, making it much much more difficult to automate properly.

With modern agritech however, new robots are able to overcome these difficulties. This is all the more helpful with increasing wage costs such as in the states, where cheap labor supply is becoming a problem for strapped farmers, leading to some crops left unharvested and in essence left to rot. While economists and global commentators talk about food shortages, they may solve their own problems they herald by taking to the fields (maybe for free) and assuage the worries of farmers about labor shortages.

These new machines comes in a multitude of different forms, id set, of all shapes and sizes just like the fruits they are intended to pluck. Different combinations of sensor and microchip processors with programmed software allows it to detect changing weather conditions and light atmospheres, as well as changing ground compositions. They can slap on a logitech camera onto a lego robotics kit and run it through a code compilation that adds on custom laser sensors and GPS satellites feeding their location into a system. Even cherry plants are proving not to be a match for these robotic advances.

One classic area where machines have previously made less headway was in obtaining grapes from vines. This no longer the case, as new machine technology has allowed robot hands to twist and pluck grapes as well as cut the right spots.

Another area of robotic challenge lies in strawberry picking. Much research has been done in japan, known for their expensive strawberries which are delicate and has a very unique variation of color gradation during its ripening stages. New robots are made and tested in mini green houses specially constructed for these new robots which rely on sensors to determine when individual strawberries are ripe before cutting them down for transfer into collection, working hard into the night.

It remains to be seen if robots can finally reach the level of a human picker on a human level, but time will tell. There are also other issues that may also be causes for concern, like labor.


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