Small Streams


The Continuing Adventures of Agrobots
December 31, 2009, 8:09 am
Filed under: ecology, eutechnics, Pittsburgh, research, technology | Tags: ,

The Economist has a summary of what servo-control devices are doing on farms. It seems mostly they’re doing a lot of speculative, expensive work. Robots, though, will invade our countryside soon enough.

I’m hoping that robots won’t look sophisticated. I think that farms will be best served by small and cheap cultivators and sensors, hundreds of little spidery devices that will weed and prune and detect insects or blights. This machinery as opposed to the current six figure tractors that are air-conditioned, Internet-enabled enclosures 10 feet off the ground might provide a greater appreciation of the health of the soil.

Also in the article is the continued fetish of increasing production and reducing labor. I’m reminded of Wendell Berry’s constant harping on the need to increase farm labor. Although few of us really want to work on the farm.

The best line in the article comes from a Pittsburgh robotics engineer:

“It is actually not hard to pick an orange, but it is very hard to pick an orange cost effectively,” says Tony Stentz of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

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