What is an agricultural robot (agribot)? Definition and examples

An agricultural robot, also known as an agribot, is a robot designed for use in the agriculture industry.

Agribots automate tasks for farmers, boosting the efficiency of production and reducing the industry’s reliance on manual labor. 

One of the biggest advantages of agribots is that they can operate 24/7, 365 days a year. And, unlike human labor, they do not need to be paid – just maintained.

Some of the main applications of robots in agriculture include:

  • Harvesting and picking
  • Autonomous mowing, seeding, spraying, and pruning
  • Sorting and packing
  • Phenotyping

As the human population grows, farmers are having to use new technologies to keep up with growing demand. By 2050, there are expected to be about 9 billion people in the world. IEEE Robotics and Automation Society says that “agricultural production must double if it is to meet the increasing demands for food and bioenergy.”

In order to meet the 9 billion people’s demand for food, robotics and automation are expected to play a major role in society.

Examples of agricultural robots

See & Spray – Blue River Technology’s precision weed control machine

Using computer vision and artificial intelligence, these smart machines can detect, identify, and make management decisions about plants in the field.

The machines see every plant and determine the appropriate treatment for each. The machine can distinguish subtle differences between cotton plants and weeds of many species and sizes. The robot’s nozzles target unwanted weeds in real time as the machine passes. It applies herbicide only to weeds, avoiding application on crop or areas without weeds. The machine then assesses the applied herbicide, makes adjustments, and learns as it goes.

Harvest CROO Robotics: Strawberry Picking Robot

Florida-based startup Harvest CROO is developing a robot strawberry picker. A single Harvest CROO Computerized Robotic Optimized Obtainer) machine will be able to pick a plant in just 8 seconds and also cover eight acres in a single day. The robot will reportedly be able to replace a team of more than 30 human pickers.

The company is focused on “Conservation of Motion” robotics, which means they optimize the individual tasks that a harvester accomplishes. A single robotic arm isn’t used to accomplish the picking of strawberries; instead the team decided to use multiple robotic components to separate the picking functions of leaf gathering, visual inspection, picking and then packing. Harvest CROO said that this approach allows them to build simpler robots, which run faster and operate at the scale needed to support current farm operations.

Autonomous tractors

Autonomous Tractor Corporation develops autonomous electronic tractors for tilling, harvesting, and hauling applications in the agricultural sector.

Agricultural drones

Agricultural drones are unmanned aerial vehicles used to let farmers see their fields from the sky and monitor crop growth.

Sophisticated drones allow farmers to plan a survey by selecting the edges of the field, defining flight parameters and uploading it to the drone. The drone then flies the plan automatically. Some drones have a data chip which can quickly send the data it captured to image processing and analytic services.