With the so-called rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and various other technologies, the automation of assorted tasks is, seemingly, an inevitability — one that is bound to touch each and every industry.

When we think of automation, likely our minds envision a warehouse where a robotic arm is quickly picking and placing items along the production line. Yet such technology is moving out of the warehouse and into various other spaces, including the farm.

Considered a solution for worker shortages, increasing food production and crop yields, while reducing the use of energy, pesticides and other resources associated with agriculture, automation is making significant inroads in the agricultural field. In fact, tools of automation are taking over virtually every agricultural task, from soil management, planting, harvesting and virtually everything in between.

Follow along with GlobalSpec for a rundown of some of those automation solutions happening down on the farm.

Greenhouse bot

Floating Robotics, a spinoff company from ETH Zurich, has developed a picking robot for use in greenhouses.

To alleviate the strain on human pickers working in greenhouses and exposed to high temperatures and high levels of humidity, Floating Robotics has created a robot that can automate tasks such as harvesting, defoliating and boxing vegetables.

The picking robot is expected to eventually ease the turnover of human pickers, allowing them to concentrate on higher value tasks instead of strenuous, repetitive work.

The robot is reportedly equipped with an integrated camera that enables it to monitor crops, while a built-in computer helps the picker to recognize different plants and objects.

Artificial seeds

A team of researchers from the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) has developed an artificial fluorescent seed for monitoring soil health via drones.

Source: ITTSource: ITT

Mimicking the aerodynamic behavior of winged Acer seeds, which are dispersed by the wind, the team developed its Acer i-Seed by 3D printing the artificial seeds using biocompatible and compostable material composed of polylactic acid (PLA) embedded with temperature-sensitive non-toxic fluorescent lanthanide particles.

Once developed, the team suggested that the seeds could be dispersed via drone and then they would deploy drones equipped with fluorescence light detection and ranging (flidar) to enable both remote and distributed monitoring of the soil temperature and other factors.

Spraying bot

Agricultural digitalization firm Solinftec has developed a sprayer robot for agricultural applications.

The Solix Sprayer robot has been designed to autonomously detect and subsequently destroy weeds in agricultural settings.

Source: SolinftecSource: Solinftec

Powered by four solar panels that control the drive and spray systems, the sprayer robot provides data reports on crop populations, weed identification and densities; nutrient deficiency identification and densities; disease identification and thresholds; insect identification and thresholds; and maps for data analysis.

Crop-picking bot

An agricultural robotics startup has developed an AI-driven robot to assist with crop-picking and other farming tasks.

California-based Future Acres has developed its aptly named “Carry” robot to travel alongside farmers and those picking crops, carrying crops and functioning as an autonomous harvesting assistant.

According to Future Acres, the all-terrain, all-weather wheeled robot can transport 500 lb of hand-picked crops, thereby reducing the physical toll on human workers having to perform the same back and forth task of transporting crops.

Strawberry picking bot

A Belgian robotics company has developed a strawberry picking robot to assist farmers and strawberry producers amid farm worker shortages.

The strawberry-picking robot called Rubion, developed by robotics company Octinion, is reportedly capable of picking almost 795 lb worth of strawberries each day versus the roughly 110 lb of strawberries that human pickers generally pick in the same time frame.

This is accomplished through photonic sensors that detect light wavelengths, or “signatures,” that emanate from the ripe red berries, as determined by a pre-programmed dataset of characteristics built into the robot’s internal RGB camera. Once the ripeness of the berry is ascertained, the soft grippers delicately grasp the strawberry, placing it into a bin where it is sorted by size and weight. This all occurs during what Rubion’s makers suggest is a five-second picking cycle.

Raspberry picking bot

Similarly, a raspberry-picking robot developed by a University of Plymouth spin-out is capable of picking as many as 25,000 raspberries a day, according to a recent trial of the technology.

U.K.-based Fieldwork Robotics, the University of Plymouth spinout company, trialed the robot on a West Sussex farm where it relied on machine learning techniques, 3D cameras and sensors to locate ripe raspberries. Once identified, the robot used tong-like grippers to pluck the raspberries and place them in a basket.

Rice field farming bot

A team of engineers from an international automobile manufacturer has developed a prototype of a robot duck to reduce pesticides and weed growth in rice fields.

Engineers at Nissan have developed a robotic duck dubbed Aigamo robo — or robot duck — which clears weeds without using pesticides.

The self-propelled, Wi-Fi and GPS-enabled, 1.5 kg robot navigates the waters surrounding rice fields using two rotating rubber brushes that perform the function of actual duck feet, stirring and oxygenating the water and consequently preventing weed growth.

Tom, Dick and Harry bots

A U.K. startup has developed a series of robots that use AI and electricity to destroy weeds — a process that entirely forgoes the use of chemicals in agriculture.

Tom, the first of three robots from the Small Robot Company, is a mapping robot that uses AI to map roughly 50 acres of farmland a day, locating individual plants and distinguishing plants from weeds.

That data is then communicated to a second robot called Dick. Using what is called Rootwave technology from a U.K. startup of the same name, Dick can apply electricity to the weeds located by Tom, boiling them from the inside.

Harry, the third and final robot from the Small Robot Company, is designed to plant and sow seeds and plot specific plant locations using AI.

Weeding bots

FarmWise, a startup helmed by researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has created a line of autonomous weeding robots that rely on AI to cut out weeds while leaving crops untouched.

The new line of Vulcan robots joins FarmWise's current line of Titan robots, both of which feature hundreds of tiny blades that are directed by AI to cut around crops.

According to its developers, the Vulcan is lightweight and pulled along by a tractor. Like its predecessor, the Titan line of autonomous weeding robots, the Vulcan distinguishes weeds from crops using machine vision.

Rock-clearing bot

TerraClear, a robotics and AI company, has developed a rock-picking robot to automate a tedious task associated with farming.

Source: TerraClearSource: TerraClear

The TerraClear Rock Picker can autonomously clear fields of rocks that pose a threat to farming equipment and that slow down productivity, according to its developers.

Using AI, the system can reportedly identify large rocks via drone for mapping their location and size. Once rocks are detected, the TerraClear Rock Picker is deployed and is capable of picking up and moving as many as 400 rocks an hour that weigh as much as 300 lb each.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com