Robortics in Agriculture
Author : Muhammad Sajjad , Faryal Ahmed
(University of Agriculture Faisalabad)
A robot is a mechanical, artificial agent and is usually an electromechanical system. It is a device that because of software programming makes complicated tasks easy to perform.
The word robot was derived from the Czech word robota means forced labor or work.
Agricultural robotics is the use of automation in bio systems such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries. The robots perform like weeding, fertilizing, planting, picking and plowing etc. Some robots are specific for one task but most agricultural robots are multi-functional. The main cause of agricultural revolution was the introduction of machines.
Why is robotics needed?
Robots can perform agricultural operations autonomously such as mechanical weed control, spraying, watching the farms day and night for an effective report, increase precision and efficiency, manage individual plants in novel ways, can do work with accuracy and fruit picking.
Sustain domestic agriculture, facilitate 24 hours every day (24/7) operations, reduce chemical usage etc.
Robots usually have five parts:
1. Sensors: The sensors send information in the form of electronic signals back to the controller. Sensors provide the information to robot controller about its surroundings.
2. Controller/Computer: It functions as a brain of the robot. It allows the robot to work together with other machines, processes and robots.
3. Drive/ Actuator: It is the engine of robot. An actuator is defined as “a mechanical device that produces motion.”
4. Arm: Usually a robot’s arm is like a human arm with a shoulder, elbow, wrist and fingers. The arm is the part of the robot that positions the end effectors and sensors to do their pre-programmed business.
5. End-effectors: The end effectors mean the last link or end of the robot. It can be seen as the part of a robot that interacts with the work environment.
Examples: Gripper, Vacuum pump, tweezers, scalpel and Blowtorch.
Robots used in agriculture
1. Demeter: It can cut crops and looks like a normal harvester. It has cameras on it that can detect the difference between the crop that has been cut and crop that has not. The Demeter robot can also be driven by remote control. Demeter can be taught a path and follow that path with an accuracy of up to 3 centimeters.
2. Robot for weed control: A four wheel drive weed seeking robot was developed and the task of the weed removing device is to remove or destroy weeds. Weed identification is based on color photography.
3. Forester robot: This is a special type of robot used for cutting up of wood, tending trees and pruning of X-mas tree, for harvesting pulp and hard wood and in the forests. It employs a special jaws and axes for chopping the branch.
4. Robot in horticulture: Robots are used in lawns to cut grass. It can cut any lawn regardless of its geometric shape.
5. Fruit picking robot: The fruit picking robot need to pick ripe fruit without damaging the branches or leaves of the tree. The robot can distinguish between fruit and leaves by using video image capturing. The camera is mounted on the robot arm and the colors detected are compared with properties store in memory. If a match is gained the fruit is picked.
ü Robotic weeding: The Robot can kill the weeds by knowing the position and severity of the weeds. Non contact methods are being developed such as laser treatments (Heisel 2001) and micro spraying.
ü Crop scouting: Data collection would be less expensive and timelier. Collect timely and accurate information.
ü Micro spraying: Machine vision can be used to identify the position of an individual weed plant. Apply both liquid sprays and fertilizer. It is able to regulate itself according to current weather conditions. Deliver very small amounts directly on to the weed leaf.
ü Irrigation: A robotic irrigator in the form of a mechatronic sprinkler (to simulate a travelling gun). Apply variable rates of water and chemigation to predefined areas.
ü Selective harvesting: Harvesting only those parts of the crop which meet certain quality thresholds.
ü Robots can work non stop but humans need rest.
ü Robots can work in hazardous environments but human can not do.
ü Robots small sized wheels perform well in muddy soils.
ü Robots can detect presence of diseases, weed, insect infestation and other stress.
ü The lightweight of the robots do not compact the soils as larger machinery does.
ü Agricultural robots are capable of collecting crop and soil samples.
ü Robots don not need to be paid wage.
ü Robots can perform tasks more quickly than humans.
ü Due to small size they are capable to accumulate data close to crop.
ü The robot does not get sick or tired and does not need time off.
ü Energy issues and costly
ü People are made unemployed because robots are doing their job.
ü Not currently scale neutral.
ü If an item on the line is not in correct place a human worker would notice and correct it but a robot can not do.
ü We can conclude that an agricultural robot can make a tremendous change in the field of agriculture and can increase the quality and productivity to a greater extend.
ü One of the most important advantage of robot in agriculture is it can work 24 hours a day. Often when there is no light which can be a big factor with certain factors.
ü The higher quality products can be sensed by machines (weight, density, ripeness, size, color, shape, firmness etc.) accurately.
ü Crop production may be done better and cheaper with a swarm of small machines than with a few large ones.