Agriculture is a critical industry for mankind – as our population continues to grow, it is vital for us to develop an efficient industry that produces sufficient healthy food that no-one needs to go hungry. With serious concerns about the nutritional content of the topsoil needed for food production and their own economic survival, farmers have already been using advanced (and in some parts of the world, simple) technology for several years to improve crop yields and field maintenance, using the umbrella term, Precision Farming. The main technologies in use are high precision positioning systems, automated steering systems, geomapping, sensors and remote sensing, integrated communication systems, and variable rate technology. In terms of the technologies we are tracking, this includes AI, autonomous vehicles, and drones. Get more details

As the availability of human labors on farms is becoming increasingly limited, the productivity provided by technology rarely involves actual job loss. The exception being crop picking, which traditionally has been provided by migrant workers.



Picking peppers (Drone/Bees – 2018-12 – CNBC)

Drones help plant the smart seeds for forest recovery (Drone/Bees – 2018-11 – ZDNet)

Tiny drones replacing bees as pollinators (Drone/Bees – 2018-03 – TechRepublic)

UK farmers can use this soft robot to help with crop picking (Robotics/Farmwork – 2018-03 – ZDNet)

Use of robotics to handle labour shortage on the farm (Robotics/Farmwork&Bees – 2018-03 – TechRepublic)

Drone technologies could increase farmers’ productivity by 500 percent (Drone/Farming – 2018-02 – TechRepublic)

Using robots to develop drought-resistant corn crops (Robotics – 2018-01 – ZDNet)



Cannabis on a blockchain: Israeli Security Matters files patent for plant tracking (Supply Chain/Robotics - 2019-09 - ZDNet)

Israeli company Security Matters’ solution can be applied to mark, track, and manage the supply chain of cannabis plants, cannabis products, and products containing cannabis-derived ingredients.

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Robots take over farms faster than expected through autonomous equipment start-ups (Farming/Robotics - 2019-05 - The Independent)

Robots are taking over farms faster than expected as the first fully autonomous farm equipment is becoming commercially available. Autonomous tractors with specialized equipment will spray, plant, plow and weed cropland. They are much more precise, saving major costs.

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Robotic apple picker trials continue in Washington (Apple Picking/Robotics - 2019-05 - Geekwire)

For the first time, some apples sold in the U.S. will be picked by a robot rather than humans. California start-up, Abundant Robotics, makes the apple harvesting machines that will be trialled in Washington State’s 2019 harvest, with an expectation of commercial availability in 2021. The robot moves down rows of orchards, using AI and LIDAR to search for ripe apples, and a robotic arm with a vacuum to gently suck the apples and deposit them into a bin.

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A robot apple-picker is now harvesting fruit in New Zealand orchards (Fruitpicking/Robotics - 2019-04 - MIT Technology Review)

One of New Zealand’s largest food producers, T&G Global, has been working with US startup Abundant Robotics to create a robot that picks fruit when ripe for picking. The robot uses lidar to navigate the rows between the trees, and machine vision to identify which apples are ripe and which aren’t. It then uses a vacuum to gently “suck” apples off the trees.

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IBM completes blockchain trial tracking a 28-ton shipment of oranges (Supply Chain - 2019-02 - Coinbase)

IBM has completed a trial of blockchain technology to track a shipment of 3,000 cartons of mandarin oranges from China to Singapore. The electronic bill of lading was recorded on a blockchain. The normal time of 5-7 days was eliminated, providing traceable and tamper-proof record storage, where 40% fraud involves documentation.

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How self-driving tractors, AI, and precision agriculture will save us from the impending food crisis (Agriculture- 2018-12 - ZdNet)

John Deere’s test farm has helped increase overall farm productivity. In 1940 the average American farmer fed 19 people/year; today 155 people. For individual crops, corn amd soybean yields in the US grew by 61% and 29% (1980-2015). Detailed pdf downloads available.

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First autonomous robotic farm in the US opens (Agriculture/Hydroponics- 2018 -10 - MIT Technology Review)

Iron Ox has opened its first production facility in California. The 8,000-square-foot indoor hydroponic facility will be producing leafy greens at a rate of roughly 26,000 heads a year. This is the next step in the company’s vision of a fully autonomous farm where software and robotics fill the place of human agricultural workers.

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Software that optimizes seed selection, reduces fertilizer use, and detects early signs of disease is revolutionizing agriculture (Agriculture/Productivity- 2018-09 - MIT Technology Review)

The Climate Corporation is gathering information from sensors on farming equipment and in the field, which is analyzed in the cloud. The company is building increasingly sophisticated models that help farmers understand which crop hybrids will produce greater yields under certain weather and soil conditions, or what fertilizer levels will be optimal in a particular setting – helping farmers produce 8 additional bushels of crops per acre.

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Harvesting marijuana with robots is hard (Agriculture/Marijuana- 2018-09 - ZDNet)

Boston-area Bloom Automation will deploy smart robots that can harvest the sensitive marijuana crop at twice the efficiency of human harvesters. The robotic harvester uses machine vision and path planning algorithms to isolate clusters of flowers, segmenting the plant into the flower, branch, and leaf for clipping effectiveness.

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Robot picks nearly-ripe bell peppers (Agriculture/Vegetable Picking- 2018-09 - Wired)

Researchers in Israel and Europe have developed a robot (‘Sweeper’) that autonomously roams a greenhouse, finding peppers ready to be cut, saws them off the plant, and places them in a basket.

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AI-powered drones increase efficiency, reduce cost, spotting problems humans might miss (Agriculture - 2018-06 - TechRepublic)

Drones monitor construction sites, farms, and critical infrastructure, sending back real-time data, which is subjected to AI analysis to spot problems. This increases efficiency, reduces costs, and may spot problems humans might miss.

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AI-powered weed hunters could soon reduce the need for herbicides and genetically modified crops (Robotics - 2018-05 - MIT Technology Review)

Robots, like the one created by ecoRobotix, will be able to roll through fields, using computer vision to target and spray individual weeds as they go. EcoRobotix claims its robo-brigade will decrease total herbicide use by a factor of 20.

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Tiny drones replacing bees as pollinators (Drones/Bees - 2018-03 - TechRepublic)

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is developing a small, artificial bee, currently in the format of a drone. Some plants can pollinate, only if there’s enough wind. Some plants need a current location of the pollination onto the flower itself. We are currently creating enough wind.

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Use of Robotics to handle labour shortage on the farm (Robotics/Farmwork&Bees - 2018-03 - TechRepublic)

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has a long history of robotics research, with a fast-growing area being agriculture. Projects include a calibrated, intelligent sprayer that can identify grapes and leaves, applying sprays accurately; A small drone to pollinate flowers, and tomato flowers; and a sweet pepper harvesting-robot.

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Robots could replace human crop pickers (Robotics/Farmwork - 2018-03 - ZDNet)

Researchers from the University of Plymouth have created GummiArm, a soft robot capable of crop picking, which has two arms and soft joints. Cameras and sensors built into the robot’s ‘hands’ produce 3D models of objects in real-time, allowing the robot to assess which produce — such as cauliflower, cabbage, or broccoli — to pick or to leave. Soft joints and appendages backed up by robotic materials can provide the strength to pick without damaging crops. Commercialization is expected in the next two to three years.

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Drone technologies could increase farmers' productivity by 500 percent (Drone/Farming - 2018-02 - TechRepublic)

Drones are being used across the world, with the help of DroneDeploy software, to enable field surveillance, and detect issues (relating for example to weed detection and planting needs,), and provide farm equipment with the data to fix the issues. Drones only cost about $1,000, and the software another $1,000.

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