Maximizing Crop Yields with AgRobots: A Comprehensive Guide
Automation, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and augmented reality – are some of the industry buzzwords that have captivated people's attention in recent years. For that matter even, RPA or Robotic Process Automation, is drawing public attention.
Robotic Process Automation is wrongly perceived as a technology in the form of physical robots that perform labor-intensive activities like cleaning the house, cooking, lifting heavy objects, assembling stuff, etc.
In reality, robotic process automation is a bit different. It is a software technology that makes it easier to manage, deploy, and build software to streamline repetitive and mundane tasks increasing employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity.
India’s leading software and service review portal goodfirms.co had an opportunity to interact with Mr. Anand Padia, Practice Head, RPA Solutions, Trigent Software Inc., about the application, challenges, and benefits of RPA. He said, “RPA benefits include improved efficiency, reduced manual labor, and cost saving due to reduced errors and increased accuracy.”
Automation Vs. Artificial Intelligence
People often confuse automation with artificial intelligence. Both are not the same. Automation is about setting up robots to follow specific patterns or rules and carry out the task efficiently. At the same time, Artificial Intelligence is about setting up robots who think at the level of human intelligence without following any set pattern of rules.
According to geeksforgeeks.org, “Artificial Intelligence(AI) can be defined as the collection of different technologies that allow the machine to act at the human level of intelligence. This process requires learning from past experiences and self-correction to make a certain decision and to reach a certain conclusion.”
Whereas “Automation is designed as something which runs by itself with little or no human interaction by following some specific patterns and rules to perform repetitive tasks. Automation is used every day and everywhere in life. Automation is widely used in E-Commerce, Banking, the Telecommunication industry, etc.”
Robotic Process Automation in Agriculture
The agricultural sector is changing and facing challenges, and new demands are growing. Thus, automation needs to be infused into farming and agriculture to meet those demands. Agriculture automation is the process of using technological instruments to enhance agro-business.
Automation in agriculture is intended to alleviate labor–intensive and time–consuming farming that every farmer faces across the world. It is to simplify the chores while enhancing the quality of crops. One cannot invent more land to farm; hence using whatever is already available is crucial.
Many external forces wreak havoc on the farm business, and all are entirely out of the business owner's control. Weather, drought, pests, and disease constantly hammer agriculture. Thus, to curb all the problems, farmers need to employ robotic process automation techniques and benefit from them.
Upside of Employing Agrobots (Benefits of Automation)
The world population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, and currently, we are at 7.8 billion. Thus, to feed more people, crops need to be yielded more. Hence, to get more work done and at a faster speed, farmers need to incorporate automation into their farms.
Automation in any field is beneficial, and there are numerous benefits of employing agrobots, out of which some are:
1. Reduction in Human Errors
One of the most significant benefits of automation is that it reduces human errors. The robot can efficiently perform the task that was traditional to be done by farmers. When he is freed from such tasks employing robots, the work is finished faster and error–free.
The robots can take over packaging and dispatching tasks, or they can take up spraying pesticides in the field without harming the crops. All they need to do is follow the commands and work according to the algorithms set by humans.
2. Carry Out Repetitive Tasks for Humans
Farming requires lots of repetitive tasks which can be automated. Robots never tend to be bored of performing the mundane and perpetually uninspiring tasks. In fact, they cannot complete the creative task because it requires mind and humanness to do so.
Thus, they can carry out repetitive tasks giving humans time to bring in new ideas and implement them. When the burden of a regular job is taken off of farmers, they can easily focus on developing and growing their farms and taking up important meetings with the buyers, removing the intermediaries.
3. Doesn’t Fall Ill Due to Atmospheric Conditions
People fall ill. They fall sick all the time, and the most prominent example of it is COVID PANDEMIC. Many lost their jobs, and fields were ruined because of social distancing and quarantine. People weren't allowed to manage their crops.
These things do not affect robots. They can work under any condition. They need to be given commands, and they’ll do what they have been asked of. Not a single day would be ruined because of robots if they will be maintained regularly.
The machines can work for long hours and in dangerous situations without being affected by rain, sleet, snow, or any other adverse weather conditions. This means that farmers will see a reduction in injuries, which will likely result in lower costs as well.
4. Data-Driven Guidance – Learning From Past Experiences
Data-driven guidance is one of the most applied forms of automation. If applied correctly, the robot will base its action on historical data and yield fruitful results.
According to news.microsoft.com, “FarmBeats platform, which harnesses sensors, drones and cameras for seamless data collection, is helping farmers in Africa improve crop yields as well as increase income. As many as 8 million farmers and 4 million hectares will be positively affected.”
It will not only make the crops better but will be able to provide food to millions, thanks to its speed. When a robot is given past data, it will learn about the field inside out and assist with accurate weather forecasting, which will be able to make it work for the farmers.
5. Work More, Better, and Faster
Machines work faster, more, and better than humans. They are not affected by tardiness, diseases, mental health issues, creative blocks, financial problems, etc. It will work incessantly as programmed. Without a doubt, farm automation can help the agriculture industry tackle overpopulation, sustainability demands, and labor shortages.
Weed Plucking the Seed of Doubts (Challenges of Automation)
Every technology has its limitations, and every field that has incorporated it knows. Along with the benefits of automation, the agriculture industry is facing limitations of automation too. Under certain conditions, agricultural automation can displace rural labor and lead to adverse environmental consequences such as land degradation and biodiversity loss.
And not just that, there are various other limitations agriculture industry has to face while employing automation like, as follows:
1. Automation Is Extremely Expensive to Employ
Automation is not easy to employ because it is extremely expensive. Plus, the farmers who cannot afford the technology might feel left out. Automated tractors are not only costly, but they might not be handy to operate. Incorporating automation in the agriculture industry might be more challenging than it seems. And while labor is costly, machines are even more expensive.
2. Loss of Jobs for Blue-Collar Workers
Because of technology employment, the human might not be needed at a basic level. The machine can do the work of 50 ordinary men; hence they will not be required anymore. Instead, only one educated person who knows how to operate machinery will be required. This will lead to job losses for employees and families relying on farming for their livelihood, who might have to search for options.
3. Lack of Experience Could Lead To Loss and Injury
It is not easy to run a machine, and even if a farmer learns to do so, they might not be able to make use of their full potential. That is because to make use of technology and to get an optimum return out of it requires you to be educated enough about it. Even with workshops held, they might not be acceptable for technology.
Also, one mistake with the technology could result in destruction because it is not human. Thus, it might not know when to stop. Plus, it could be dangerous to humans resulting in severe injury and death too.
4. Privacy and Security Issues – Data Might Not Be Safer
Data with technology cannot be guaranteed safety. It cannot be trusted fully with all the information. Anyone can hack it and make it rogue. The confidential data of a business might leak, or someone can steal it if it is trusted by the machine. Hence, the limitation of automation is that it can only perform tasks with pre–defined commands. It cannot be loaded with new kinds of information.
5. Animals Might Not Respond Positively to Machines
If we take farming as a category and shepherding and herding as a subcategory, then poultry farming might not be the category to introduce automation. Because animals need human touch and they might not respond well to machines. They need to be adequately nurtured with care taking into consideration that they are living beings that can move.
Concocting Automation in Agriculture (Application of Automation in Agriculture)
People are moving from jungles to concrete jungles, but that is hampering the quality of farming. The next generation isn't interested in getting their hands dirty (literally.) So, who will take care of farming, and how will the agricultural industry thrive? Robotics Process Automation intervenes, and its application will save the farms and fields.
1. Autonomous Seeding Is Done Right
Seed sowing is an essential requirement of farming. Without automation, farmers sow seeds with their hands. It is the traditional method of seeding, but thankfully, autonomous precision seeding is here to help with the systematic seeding.
When robotics is combined with geo-mapping, the mechanism can place the seeds exactly where they are supposed to be positioned for better growth.
2. Robots for Harvesting the Primary Crops
Bell peppers, for instance, should be harvested just before they will be eaten. Zucchinis should be harvested when they reach a specific size. Otherwise, they’d just keep on growing and lose their taste. RPA bots can connect to IoT sensors that are monitoring the crops’ weight, the sunlight, and other variables to gather those data and perform accordingly.
And Robots are perfect for the jobs because they do not have feelings. Thus, they do not get bored of performing repetitive tasks, and they are well-known for that too. So, the monotonous task of harvesting essential crops can be delegated to the robots.
However, to grow fruits and other difficult vegetables, robots need to be more effective in knowing certain kinds of skills. But since robots are not artificial intelligence, they cannot learn. Thus, their work is limited to essential harvesting.
3. Micro Spraying Is a Serious Business
Most pesticides ruin crops and soil, but if sprayed correctly, they won't be as harmful. Even though the ground is plowed frequently to maintain the fertility, it cannot escape pest spraying. Thus, farmers automate the spraying and employ robots to reduce its harmful effect. With futuristic computer vision technology, micro-spraying robots can detect weeds and then spray a targeted drop of herbicide onto them. Wouldn’t that be extra cool and convenient for farmers?
4. Automation for Domestic Plant Lovers
Robotic Process Automation can be blended into nursery planting too. Most people who have plants at home find them hard to maintain. Still, automation can maintain the nursery planted at home, including watering the plants, plucking the fruits and vegetables, and learning the surroundings. At times, automation can be commanded to enhance the plant growth with the help of music therapy.
5. Removing Weeds Without Harming Crops
One of the research papers on agricultural robots in weed management and control, "Agricultural robots have great potential to deliver weed control technologies that are much more adaptable even down to the plant scale. They potentially could direct chemical or cultivation tools to target weed plants directly."
They have the capability to remove weeds without harming the crops. However, to use the technology optimally, both crop and weed plants must be accurately perceived in the crop field. The perception system must include plant detection, weed and crop plant classification, and plant localization. It has its challenges, but its benefits are numerous.
6. Taking Notes on Improving Plant Health
It is necessary for a farmer to know their plant. If they have been in this industry for a long, they know their plants inside out and how and when they need water, fertilizer, and sunlight. But no matter how expert they are, the soil and crop health need to be checked regularly.
Thus, for this, they have to send the samples to the lab and wait for the results to arrive. Thanks to LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology, which assists robots in navigating their surroundings by providing object perception, object identification, and collision avoidance, it collects data on plants' health, physiology, and stress response. It uses it to improve the condition of crops.
7. Drones for Crops Supervision
Drones are not new to the agriculture industry. Since 1980, farmers have been using drones to monitor and supervise fields. Thus, when drones were invented, agriculture was the first industry that had implemented it full–fledged.
Geopard.tech is a German-based, unbiased cloud-based Analytics Powerhouse for precision agriculture. It says that the agriculture sector is set to grow to a whopping USD 4.8 billion in 2024, and all data obtained by drones will help farmers to make better agronomic decisions, which makes it part of the “precision agriculture” sector.
8. Robot-Assisted Irrigation
Climate change is the biggest issue on this planet, and it will continue to be the biggest issue if nothing is done about it. Hence, saving water and using it wisely is the core of farming. But irrigation and fertilizing the field use lots of water, especially in the area that is not monsoon blessed.
To combat this challenge, farmers have taken the help of robot-assisted irrigation. It tells the farmer which plant requires what amount of water. Also, it helps with the crops that grow without water or can survive on rainwater.
9. Sort, Pack, and Dispatch
Growing crops and maintaining them are more manageable tasks as compared to sorting them, packing them, and dispatching them. It requires more of human labor. Production is faster, but delivering the grocery is not. Thus, the need for humans is increasing rapidly with the stocking and dispatching of the crops that are yielded.
More and more farming companies are employing robots to do the laborious and repetitive tasks of sorting, packing, and dispatching. It helps them deliver the promised products on time and receive the money on an immediate basis. With coordination capability and line-tracking technology, the robots can fast-track the packing process.
10. Fulfill the Labor Shortage
Technology is fast to replace humans, but as it is said – A ROBOT CAN REPLACE 50 ORDINARY MEN, BUT IT CANNOT DO THE WORK OF AN EXTRAORDINARY MAN. Keeping the extraordinary work to themselves, farmers and fielders can automate the labor tasks.
Various tasks don't require supervision and can be done by machines by setting the algorithms and giving certain sets of commands. Thus, those tasks can be left to robots to complete. These robots fulfill the labor shortage.
11. Remote-Controlled Tractors for Unfavorable Weather Conditions
With tractors becoming autonomous, farmers can sit comfortably and operate them. It helps them reduce labor costs, increase the season's yield, and improve efficiency for daily operations. Labors do not have to plow the field themselves, especially in the deplorable weather conditions.
12. Farming Apps to Monitor Crop Health in Real Time
These days there are apps for everything. Thus, intelligent farming apps allow modern farmers to check the health of their fields in real time. If there are issues, the actions to remedy that can be done immediately. Also, apps teach farmers what should be done and what shouldn't be done.
Apps contain case studies by farm experts, which is why they can learn more about their crops. They will be kept them up to date with the markets and prices. Their inputs matter too, and apps allow them to share their experiences with farmers around the globe. It will enable a community to come together and work as one.
13. Reduced Environmental Footprints
There is a limited amount of land on Earth, and one cannot bring more. So how to manage growing more crops to feed an increasing number of mounts? Automation is the key. With the help of the robotic automation process, farmers can develop plant-based meat to replace livestock farming.
Seitan is an alternative derived from wheat, whose carbon footprint is about 130 times smaller than beef, making it significantly more sustainable.
As Bill Gates has rightly said, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”
Thus, when we discuss the topic of concocting agriculture and automation, it will help when people move to concrete jungles to progress. Automation doesn't require humans to be present at places to manage crops and plants. They can do it in the comfort of their home. It can complete the work of ordinary men and requires only experts’ supervision.
Cutting the work in half but making many blue-collared people lose their jobs, automation has blended into our lives like salt blends in buttermilk. Yet, it is necessary to keep up to date with deep learning, neural network, robotic automation process, and artificial intelligence.
Myra Williams is a content creator with GoodFirms. She enjoys reading about technology and likes to keep up with the IT news. When she is not working, you’ll find her in a café with a good book.
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