Editorial Feature

Using Robotics to Farm

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Recent advancements in automated farming technology have dramatically transformed the modern agricultural industry to meet the growing and continuously changing demands of consumers around the world. To ensure that an adequate supply of high-quality crops is produced promptly, agriculture robots have emerged as a solution.

Tension in Agriculture

Through human history, demands for increasing agricultural output have been met by either utilizing the help of additional laborers or developing more efficient tools capable of acquiring a larger food supply. These traditional issues have remained prominent in the modern agricultural industry, in which the rising global population and worldwide labor shortages have limited the ability of this industry to respond effectively. In addition to these challenges, today’s farmers are also struggling to maintain high yields as a result of a consistently unpredictable climate, seed contamination, limited water spray volume, the growing cost of insecticide, herbicide and pesticide chemicals and much more.

The Beginning of Automated Agricultural

Over the past decade, a growing number of technology startups have arisen to improve the current conditions of the agricultural industry. At the center of each of these startups is the Internet of Things (IoT), which has allowed a wide range of devices ranging from sensors, gages, and machines to be connected on a single network. While some startups have focused on improving software that allows farmers to distantly monitor seed, soil, fertilizer and irrigation levels from, others have created remote sensors that are used to collect information on growing conditions in real-time. The promise of these companies and their groundbreaking technologies has welcomed a considerable number of investors who have steadily increased their contributions to about 160 startups from $200 million in 2007 to about $1.5 billion in 2017.

The Next Frontier of Agricultural Robotics

The next frontier for automated agricultural technology comes in the form of robotics. Since a wide variety of tasks are performed each day by agricultural workers, technology companies have developed several different robotic devices capable of replacing many of these traditional worker responsibilities.

Harvesting Robots

A number of automated harvesting vehicles have already been successfully used in both Florida and California. By utilizing these robotic devices, the farmers in these two American states found that strawberries could be picked at a much more rapid, efficient and safe manner as comparing ed traditional strawberry picking, which can require up to a dozen farmworkers at a time. The strawberry robot harvester used in Florida can pick a 25-acre field in just three days, thereby replacing the work of up to 30 farmers.

Additionally, Abundant RoboticsTM has developed the world’s first commercial robot capable of harvesting apples in a gentle and precise manner that limits unwanted damage and bruising to the fruit. Similarly, Energid Technologies has developed a similar robotic solution that has successfully been applied for the harvesting of oranges.

In California’s Central Valley, a typical large-scale vineyard can harvest up to 20 tons of grape each hour through the use of an automated grape harvesting system. This labor rate by a single robotic device is equivalent to the typical output of over 30 human pickers. The utilization of automated robotic systems has also proven to be a more cost-effective alternative to traditional labor expenses. To date, it is estimated that up to 80% of the grape harvesting performed in vineyards across California is completed by automated systems.


In addition to robotic harvesting systems, agricultural robotic technology has improved the efficiency of planting, resource tracking, slicing and preservation of food products. These robotic advancements have proven advantageous for resolving farmworker labor shortages and increasing crop yields, both of which are crucial to ensuring a sustainable food output for consumers around the world.

Sources and Further Reading

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Benedette Cuffari

Written by

Benedette Cuffari

After completing her Bachelor of Science in Toxicology with two minors in Spanish and Chemistry in 2016, Benedette continued her studies to complete her Master of Science in Toxicology in May of 2018. During graduate school, Benedette investigated the dermatotoxicity of mechlorethamine and bendamustine; two nitrogen mustard alkylating agents that are used in anticancer therapy.


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