Rambling robots are being programmed to collect information about soils, trees, yields and ripeness in an almond orchard.January 4, 2013 4:06am
A team of Australian scientists has brought the future to a Victorian almond farm.
The University of Sydney team with the support of Horticulture Australia has successfully developed and trialled a system which includes robots that can move through the orchard, sense and collect information about soil and tree health, nut yields and ripeness.
The team hopes to extend the system to be able to harvest tree crops.
Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems Salah Sukkarieh, who is leading the project, is confident the technology trialled at Mildura, can be applied to other tree crops. In February, the team will trial the system in an apple orchard near Melbourne.
Dr Sukkarieh hopes the technology will be commercially available to farmers in a couple of years.
‘‘Traditionally it has been necessary for someone to actually walk through the orchard, taking and analysing soil and other samples and making decisions on the health and yield quality of the plants,’’ Dr Sukkarieh said.
‘‘The devices we’ve developed can collect, analyse and present this information autonomously, so a major part of the farmer’s job can be done automatically.’’
He said there was definitely a trend towards automation, for example with driver-assistance technology in broadacre cropping and robotic dairies.
The project’s second stage, which will start in the new year, involves applying this technology to standard farm tractors. As well as perceiving their environment and identifying operations required, the robotic systems will be able to perform many of the operations themselves, such as applying fertilisers and pesticides, watering, sweeping and mowing.
The third and most complex stage will be to enable the devices to carry out harvesting, which Dr Sukkarieh hopes will be achieved in a few years.
‘‘The devices we’ve developed already can identify each individual fruit on the tree and its degree of ripeness, which is about 80 per cent of the job done,’’ he said.
‘‘But being able to harvest them is our ultimate goal.’’
Dr Sukkarieh said automated technology was important to help overcome labour shortages and costs in agriculture, which could hold Australia back from being the food bowl of Asia.
‘‘This is where automation can help. We can use it to increase efficiency and yield, by having many of the manual tasks of farming performed by specially designed agricultural robotic devices.’’
He said there was more interest in automated agricultural technology and farmers were scoping out its potential.
Dr Sukkarieh said as technology developed and became cheaper, the uptake would increase.
‘‘It all comes down to cost. There are such small margins in farming and technology will be able to help,’’ he said.
Elements of the vision for revitalising the Shepparton central business district are falling into place.
The Tungamah Football Netball Club has completed a fairytale season to clinch the Picola and District Football Netball League South East Premiership with an emphatic 106 point win over the Katamatite Tigers at Tungamah.
Billed as ‘Fabulous Flowers and Fine Food’, Tatura’s Anglican Church Parish had a successful fundraiser on Thursday, September 4.
Member for Swan Hill Peter Walsh will announce upgrades to Bendigo to Echuca rail line, as well as a further upgrade to the Deniliquin line for rice freight, during celebrations at Echuca Railway station tomorrow.
David and Katrina Christie’s Nanneella dairy farm is now home to one of the biggest sheds in the district, a 160m by 37m monster.
Don’t write Ky off yet, says coach ahead of preliminary final
Seymour event packs out St Mary's College on Saturday night.
People travelled from all around the region to attend an open day at the Berrigan Rural Fire Service on Saturday.
Mia Mia Cricket Club is about to field its first cricket team since 2001
Cobram Mens Shed chips away at the issue of mental health but calls for more space.
Breakout seasons from Deni Rovers Jamie Thorpe and Nick Hay have seen the pair rewarded with respective best and fairest titles.
Now the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is enshrined in law, many opponents of the controversial plan to return irrigation water to the environment appear to have lost interest.
More than 320 000 foxes and 1500 wild dogs had been eradicated under the bounty scheme in the past three years.
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