There is now an autonomous “field robot” which can pull weeds faster, and presumably more accurately, than any farm worker – at least according to Ekobot AB’s “precision agriculture” tagline.
The “smart” agriculture approach, which utilises artificial intelligence, automation, and high-speed connectivity, should reduce costs and improve performance of the farm. Ekobot’s goal is to be able to offer practical and sustainable solutions to agricultural issues while reducing workloads with autonomous tools for vegetable farmers.
A pilot using Telia’s 5G network, networked video cameras from Axis Communications, and sector know-how from agri-tech research institute RISE has demonstrated successful automation of the traditionally manual task of weeding at a farm outside the city of Västerås in Sweden.
Data collected by the robot using onboard sensors including multispectral cameras and soil probes enables it to identify weeds and remove them automatically. The recorded data can then be further stored and processed in the cloud and analysed by farmers in the field for so-called precision farming, with instructions sent back to the robot and made available to other farm workers.
The robot can also be steered remotely, using real-time data feeds which require the low latency, high bandwidth connectivity of the 5G mobile network. In addition to cost savings and precision performance compared to manual processes, the solution can also reduce the farmer’s dependence on chemical herbicides.
Smart robot farming is real
While Sweden’s farm robots continue their pilot project and prepare for even more automated tasks enabled by 5G in the future, agriculture is already a real-world laboratory for the Internet of Things around the world. Indeed, the sector accounts for 5% of all IoT projects in GlobalData’a IoT Deployment Tracker.
If that figure seems low, it’s only until we consider the industry’s traditionally limited use of IT in core operations compared to other verticals.
Looking ahead, the combination of connectivity, analytics, and automation is bound to improve quality and efficiency in an increasingly large segment of the agriculture industry – on the land, in the sea, and in the food products we consume.