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agbot (agricultural robot)

Contributor(s): Corinne Bernstein

An agbot, also called an agribot, is an autonomous robot used in farming to help improve efficiency and reduce reliance on manual labor. Future farms are expected to be tilled, sown, tended and harvested solely by fleets of co-operating autonomous robots called swarm robots that will weed, fertilize, control pests and diseases, all the while collecting valuable data. 

Equipped with specialized arms, end effectors and other tools to perform a variety of agricultural tasks, agbots can connect to wireless sensor networks (WSNs) and with the help of drones, gather large amounts of data. Big data analytics will help farmers extract information from the vast amount of data to make farming more efficient and improve output.

The trend toward using agbots is expected to increase exponentially to help alleviate a shortage of human farm labor. Today, robots for fruit picking, milking and sheep shearing have successfully done jobs that previously required human manual labor. Thousands of robotic milking parlors are in place worldwide, and mobile bots are helping dairy farmers automate tasks such as feed pushing and cleaning manure.

The use of robotics at dairy farms accounts for a substantial share of the market for robots and drones in precision agriculture, which IDTechEx researchers predict will grow from $3 billion in 2016 to $10 billion as early as 2022. In addition to being unmanned and energy-efficient, IDTechEx predicts agricultural robots are apt to be slow (so that they can devote more attention to each plant), lightweight (to reduce soil compaction), and small (to keep costs down).

How agbots will be used:

-- Equipment manufacturers are developing tractors that use machine vision and autonomous robotics to replace traditional large, expensive and inefficient tractors.

-- In the rules-oriented organic farming field, robotic weeding implements have been used to inspect crop rows and identify weeds rapidly.

-- Robots operating at low speeds can detect weeds. Next-generation computer vision algorithms will be used to classify them.

-- Robots are being used for harvesting and sorting, packaging and boxing.

-- Other future applications include planting seeds, grafting plants, seeding clouds, analyzing soil and monitoring the environment.

This was last updated in September 2017

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