Farmers check out AgBot at Robotronica

Aug 15, 2013

Farmers in Brisbane for the Ekka are being encouraged to come to QUT's Gardens Point campus on Sunday August 18 to check out AgBot, a robot that is destined revolutionise farming in the future.

AgBot will be demonstrated at Robotronica, a free robot spectacular that will see robots from Europe and Japan as well as from QUT and elsewhere in Australia demonstrated at the university.

Robotronica is designed to encourage people to learn about and interact with robots and understand the role they will play in everyday life in the future.

QUT Head of Robotics, Professor Gordon Wyeth, said farmers would be able to talk with the scientists who have developed the AgBot and get an understanding of how the robot works.

"Our prototype agricultural - Agbot - is a transformational technology for agriculture that moves away from every larger and more expensive machines, to lightweight low cost machines that are better for productivity and the environment," he said.

"Agbot will be demonstrating its ability to safely navigate along crop rows while intelligently spraying weeds and avoiding damage to the crop."

He said within the next decade it was highly feasible that robots would be planting, weeding, maintaining and harvesting crops all over Australia.

"Robots will help Australian to become more globally competitive and research underway at QUT and at Swarm Farm near Emerald will pave the way for this agricultural transformation.

"Our light-weight, golf buggy-sized AgBot prototype is already performing well in relation to navigating and weeding.

"It can navigate around a 4000 hectare wheat farm using low-cost sensors, targeting with spray while they are still very young plants, which means less spray will be used and this is better for the environment and better for the farmer's budget.

"We estimate that robots would save the alone $620 million per year just in relation to weeding.

"But weeding is just the start," he said.

Professor Wyeth said the possibly solar-powered, farm robots would be fitted with technology that would ultimately provide a wealth of information for the farmer.

"Because information on the state of all aspects of the crop, including its ripeness, will be provided to the farmer, they will be able to send their robots to those parts of the farm that need the most attention."

He said Agbots had the potential to open up a new industry sector in Queensland.

Professor Wyeth said the price of an AgBot was expected to be similar to that of a small car and that their commercialisation could open up a new industry sector in Queensland.

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GSwift7
not rated yet Aug 16, 2013
I've seen an agricultural 'robot' demonstrated here in the US (in Georgia, where they are cracking down on illegal workers). The one I saw was much smaller and cheaper than what they describe above. It was the size of a push mower or a push roto-tiller, with a small gas lawnmower style engine. This one was equipped with a gripper claw that stuck out the front. It was programmed to pick up plants from a staging area and deliver them to the rows in the field with even spacing. It didn't work fast, but it didn't stop.

I like the idea in the story above regarding data gathering and data management, but you've gotta keep the machinery simple, modular, and durable.

The little robots I saw were priced just a little bit more than a nice lawn mower. The above device costs as much as a car? So, you could buy about 100 of the little guys or one of the golf cart things. I know what sounds better to me.