8 June 2016 Towards robotic agriculture
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Developed agriculture uses massive amounts of energy in a myriad of forms, from the energy associated with chemicals used to control pests and diseases, through fertilisers, to the tractors themselves and the fuel to power them. This energy is often wasted as it goes off-target, is expensive and will become more so in the future. Smarter machines should use the minimum amount of energy to turn the natural environment into useful agriculture thus cutting out wasted energy and reducing costs. As agricultural engineers we are continually looking to find ways of making the crop and animal production processes more efficient and have developed the concept of Precision Farming, where we recognise the natural variability found on our farms and change the management and treatments to suit. This variability takes both spatial and temporal forms. Spatial variability can be understood and managed by creating yield maps and soil maps. Temporal variability is often fundamentally linked to changes in weather over time resulting in the need for real-time management. In industry, we used to have a production line mass producing one item and are now moving over to flexible manufacturing, where each item is developed individually. In agriculture we can see a similar approach by reducing the scale of treatments from farm scale, to field scale, to sub-field scale and even individual plant treatment.
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Simon Blackmore, Simon Blackmore, } "Towards robotic agriculture", Proc. SPIE 9866, Autonomous Air and Ground Sensing Systems for Agricultural Optimization and Phenotyping, 986603 (8 June 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2234051; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2234051

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