Is manual farming sustainable as the need for agricultural products grow in demand? Can technology help? How does it impact lives of farmers? Is it the right thing to do? Like any other applications of technology, there are more questions than answers. The following links are just a set of leading indicators of trends.
Agricultural vehicles known as “cucumber flyers” enable as many as 50 seasonal workers to harvest crops.Experts from Fraunhofer IPK in Berlin, along with other German and Spanish researchers, are studying the potential for automating cucumber harvests in the scope of the EU project CATCH, which stands for “Cucumber Gathering – Green Field Experiments.” Project partners are the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy in Germany and the CSIC-UPM Centre for Automation and Robotics (CAR) in Spain.
During the Hands Free Hectare project, no human set foot on the field between planting and harvest—everything was done by robots. This includes:
- Drilling channels in the dirt for barley seeds to be planted at specific depths and intervals with an autonomous tractor;
- Spraying a series of fungicides, herbicides, and fertilizers when and where necessary;
- Harvesting the barley with an autonomous combine.
The Economist, in its Q2 Technology Quarterly issue, proclaims agriculture will soon need to become more manufacturing-like in order to feed the world’s growing population. Scientific American reports crops will soon need to become more drought resistant in order to effectively grow in uncertain climates. Farms, The New York Times writes, will soon need to learn how to harvest more with less water.