This story was originally published on Undark.
If Girish Chowdhary is correct, farmers will someday release beagle-sized robots into their fields like a pack of hounds. He says the robots will be able to diagnose plant infections and gather data to help farmers improve their farms.
One of the most productive monocultures in the world is surrounded by corn. In the United States, the corn industry was valued at $82.6 billion in 2021, but it faces many challenges, including changing weather patterns, environmental degradation, severe labor shortages, and the rising cost.
The world has reached a tipping point where desperation due to a growing population, the economic realities of conventional farming, and the advancement of technology converge to require something called precision agriculture, which aims to minimize inputs and the costs and environmental problems that go with them.
There is no segment of agriculture without its passionate advocates of robotics and artificial intelligence as solutions to all the problems facing farmers today. Their visions range from technology that adds to existing farm practices to a rethinking of agriculture that eliminates tractors, soil, sunlight, weather, and even being outdoors as factors in farm life.
The promises of precision agriculture have not been met. Most of the promised systems aren't on the market, and there isn't much real-world data proving whether they work.
Emily Duncan is a researcher in the Department of Geography, Environment.
The adoption of Earthsense's beagle-sized robots is a hope that the company's co-founder and chief technical officer, Chowdhary, is hoping will propel farmers past precision agriculture to think about the business of farming in a whole new way. Most farmers focus on yield, defining success as growing more on the same amount of land. horizon-to-horizon, industrial monocultures are saturated with chemicals and tended by massive and increasingly expensive machinery. Smaller farms living in harmony with nature, growing a diversity of higher value crops with fewer chemicals, is the future predicted by Chowdhary with the help of his robots.
Making it easier for farmers to focus on profit is the biggest thing we can do.