Australia is a major agriculture producer; it’s a vital part of our economy. And as our farmers battle drought and soil fertility, technology will play a bigger role. So how far-fetched is it to think that autonomous swarms of robot planters and harvesters could be part of the answer, at least when it comes to manpower and productivity.
Iowa-based inventor David Dourhout has already built working prototypes. Dubbed Prospero, the six-legged bots communicate via infrared and talk with each other as they crawl, avoiding the need for complex GPS brains.
"For last 1,000 years, the focus has been to increase the productivity of each farmer: building better implements, using horses, and the invention of McCormick's reapers and tractors. But the real gains come in increasing productivity of the land itself."
The consulting entomologist and robot hobbyist says he’s already had enquires from Brazil, Japan and Poland. His next step is to create a hybrid petrol-electric “shepherd” robot to help charge the swarm. He’s aiming to have the robots help farmers produce 20 per cent more per acre.
Sounds pretty awesome, if somewhat limited at the minute. Perhaps an insight into what's to come. But what would all the European backpackers do if they couldn't find work cotton chipping between February and April? [Discovery News]