Farm Robots

Interesting articles 5 Agro-Bots That Will Change Farming And The Agriculture Industry
Farms are already partially there now

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No need for Mexican workers anymore?

No need for any workers in the future who are not skilled in the technology. The idea of having large groups of workers picking berries or planting is not very good utilization of resources long term. Many farms here are already using GPS and self driving tractors. One of my friends who works on a 4200 acre farm runs a semi 12 hours per day to get seed, fertilizer, microbes, pesticide, herbicide etc to supply these machines. The planter plants 90 rows at a time! His job is safe for now and he works with 4 other guys who work 7 days a week 12 hours per day doing pretty much the same thing. It’s amazing to me 4 guys can work 4200 acres of grain and still keep up with a cattle operation. None of them make less than $15 per hour. Which is the most efficient picking by hand or this way ?

Here’s another one from The New Yorker ( very unnecessarily long article, they must be paid by the word):

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I’m really conflicted about the “robotic revolution” that’s controlling more and more of our everyday lives. As much as I don’t like weeding and other tedious chores there is a sense of accomplishment and self worth when you put the time into growing your own fruits and veggies. I understand the concept and how it “could” boost production but for me I’ll still do the work myself.


I agree with Roth, doing something as a hobby can be quite satisfying to do a lot of physical work.

It’s different of course when you do something for a living (for most people). You look for ways to make the task easier, quicker, and time more productive.

Technology has generally driven this in all fields, incuding agriculture.

Some people are scared of technology worried it will put people out of work. But this is an old saw and has never materialized. People will always find a good to produce, or a service to provide.

The downside of the new ag technology is that it is so expensive it will further cause the move to larger farms, as it takes a certain size to be able to afford the technology. Makes it that much harder for small farmers.


The problem that I see is that as farms become more efficient fewer farmers are needed to grow more crops. In the past larger families took care of large farms, today small families can take of these same farms or even larger. What I have personally witnessed is the demise of small towns as less and less people are living in rural America since fewer people are needed to run larger farms. I agree that farmers absolutely need to maximize their productivity and profits but I speculate that it is inadvertently causing more people to move to urban settings. Just my theory as based on my local observation.


Saw that article

Made me wonder why all the pickers seemed to be wearing respiratory protection

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Thanks Ryan for posting this. I’m interested in new farm technology (even though I can’t afford it :wink:)

When I first read about it and watched the 22 min. video, it sounded pretty cool. But, I don’t see the 1.5 to 3 year payback of the machine the CEO mentioned. I think it would be much more expensive than current farming practices.

The problem is that the machine only burns the tops of weeds. It doesn’t kill them. That means, it must be used much more continuously than systemic herbicides, which kill the weed, or soil activated herbicides which continue to kill weeds until they break down, or are washed out of the root profile of the weeds. For most weeds, burning the top of weeds allows for rapid regrowth of the tops.

It’s powered by a 74 hp diesel engine, which will use about 3 gal. of diesel per hour (assuming they are using 60 hp. of the 74 max capacity). Assuming a farmer uses it about 15 hrs/day, that’s 45 gal. per day. At a current cost of $3.50 per gal. that will run about $157 per day in diesel. The cost per acre in diesel would be $10.50 per acre per application.

The company specs say it will cover 15-20 acres per day. I assume it’s closer to 15 acres (it’s my experience company specs are optimistic -sometimes wildly so). It may cover 20 acres if it runs 20 hrs per day, which the CEO mentions some farmers do. Of course running it 20 hrs would use more diesel, so the cost per acre would be the same either way.

I’d estimate during the growing season, it would need to be run through the field every week and a half until the crop can start shading out the weeds. I’d also assume at least a couple runs with the machine would be needed to keep the field fairly weed free until the crop is planted. I’m guessing it would need to run about 5 times per season, at least. So the diesel cost would be about 50 bucks per acre.

As far as I can tell, the price of the machine is about $120K. The only thing I could find on cost was a comment made by some poster who claimed to know the price, but from my personal knowledge of ag equipment, that’s probably not far off, considering an autonomous robot with that kind of technology package.

Using the product every week and a half would mean it would cover a plot of ground of about 150 acres (15 acres per day X 10 days). Assuming a 10 year life, that means it would cover 1500 acres over it’s lifetime. Even assuming a farmer could get by running the equipment every two weeks, through a field, that still only gives about 2000 acres over the useful life of the equipment.

For upkeep of the machine, I’d estimate the cost of filters, oil changes, antifreeze, one set of tires, other breakdowns, etc. at about $5K over the ten years. That’s assuming no big breakdowns (like engine or hydraulic pump, which could easily cost $10 or more). I’d estimate salvage value at $20K after 10 years. That brings the cost of equipment to about $65/acre. Add that to fuel cost and the total cost is about $115 per acre. This does not count any labor in moving the machine from field to field, or field to barn. Nor does it count cost of insurance, taxes, etc.

That’s considerably more than the cost of spraying herbicides (assuming one pre-emergent spray and one contact spray after the crop is up). Certainly, the sprayers have the labor of the operator (and the one driving the nurse tank) but commercial sprayers cover such a large amount of land in such a small amount of time, the labor is negligible. Large commercial sprayers have 120’ booms and they run them through the fields at high rates of speed (20mph) so they don’t use much diesel per acre. A large sprayer can cover 200 acres per hour on the best ground. Realistically, they are probably closer to 1000 acres per day on average ground. Many farmers don’t even own a sprayer. They buy their chemicals from the coop, and the application is included in the price of the chemicals.

Custom applicators charge around $8 per acre.

Either way, two sprays won’t approach anything near $115 per acre, considering the cost of the chemicals and the cost of custom application.

As is evident, the problem is the laserweeder runs way too slow, requires more applications, therefore uses vastly more diesel fuel per acre vs. current farming practices.

One other thing that is mentioned, is that the machine weight is almost 10,000 lbs. and the tires are small. There is going to be soil compaction, and lots of it because the machine covers a tiny swath, and is run continually over the fields. This will reduce yield.

The obvious benefit of course is that chemicals don’t have to be used on the field. This is a pretty big deal to consumers.

In terms of environmental impact, I’m not sure if the laserweeder is worse or better than current methods. No chemicals are used, but the machine blows through a lot more diesel on a per acre basis.

I suspect virtually all sales of the laserweedburner are to organic farming operations, for which there are very few chemical options available.

Either way, it’s another option for farmers, so I’m glad to see companies and individuals innovate more in these areas.



Like you I think it’s a step in the right direction. Maybe like flat screen tvs in the 90s that cost 60k each then are now $400. Efficiency will improve.

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Wow, that is a great look at comparing the current vs potential future costs. If something like this machine was converted to electricity instead of diesel I could see it being a viable lower cost solution. It would likely have a longer service life but require more man hours for charging, so it would make for an interesting comparison.

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Hi Clark,

I agree it should get cheaper. Certainly the AI technology part of it should get cheaper. But a large part of what makes things get cheaper over time is mass production.

Flat screen TVs are produced like widgets because everyone owns one. Unfortunately, it’s not quite the same with most ag equipment. Certainly tractors are fairly mass produced, but so much of ag equipment is so expensive because it’s fairly specialized equipment.

Consider an orchard sprayer. A large one runs $30K and up. Yet there is no special technology. Most of them don’t have a single computer chip. They are the cost of a new car, but have a fraction of the amount of parts and technology. The problem is that they can’t mass produce them like automobiles, so they lose the enormous efficiency of scale.

If they could produce them like our own Ford Claycomo, MO plant which churns out a new vehicle off the line in seconds, then the cost would come down substantially.

My hope for the laserweedburner is that it’s more of a prototype with perhaps advanced versions making the machine run more cheaply.

For example, is it possible in the future to make a laserweedburner to burn a 60’ swath of weeds, vs. the narrow swath of the prototype?


Hey Ryan think you could make one of these
just some vacuum with suction cups, and hoses

(copied fruitnet (see link)

Australian company hopes to begin orchard trials with latest version of robotic fruit picker this year

Ripe Robotics are making progress in its bid to develop a robot capable of harvesting commercial volumes of fresh fruit.

The Australian company is hopeful of beginning orchard trials with the fifth iteration of its robotic solution this season.

“We’ve undergone some pretty massive design changes recently,” Hunter Jay, chief executive of Ripe Robotics, told Apple & Pear Australia.

“We’ve changed the end-effector, previously we had big tubes which worked well on a small scale, when we were picking apples of up to a couple of hundred, there was no problem. But a stick might become lodged very couple of hundred, which is still far too often. A stick every 10,000 apples is still too frequent.

“So we’ve made some changes, still using suctions but using a smaller suction cap that wraps around the fruit, and it’s looking to be a lot more effective.

“We’re still hoping to get it into orchard late this season, there’s obviously only Pink Lady apples still to be picked but we’re still aiming to get it out for testing, and then oranges after that and look to expand throughout next season.”

Jay said the robot is still several years away from being commercially available, but his company – based in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley – already has buyers lined up for the first edition.

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Yes I agree Olpea way to much weight.

Why not a Drone laser robot with bio metrics for weed species

They have drones for over a decade that can follow you around and film you if your a film maker.

for some time They have drones that can fly over the Amazon jungle ,
and tell of new plants or soil erosion,
and or soil depletion of nutrients.

(edit )

these drones could do a very high altitude fly by
Map the Field of undesirable plants

Go back with gathered data
come back with another drone with more weight
with program downloaded to target weeds with a new drone
with laser equipment to remove weeds growth.

I don’t have the computer knowledge to come anywhere close to that thing. But it’s a very cool project if it actually works.

Do you have the interest to read these kinds of mini drone articles? I have a craze for drones. Can you recommend a drone for starting out? Something that has a good camera and is easy to fly (if one exists).

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