By Jennifer Kite-Powell
The world population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. China and India, the two largest countries in the world, have populations totalling around one billion. In four years, by 2022, India is predicted to have the largest population in the world, surpassing China.
This means we need new ways to grow food that are smarter and helps regulate our use of land, water and energy in order to feed the planet and avoid a global food crisis.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute believe the answer lies in sensors, artificial intelligence (AI) and robots.
In a new initiative called FarmView, researchers are working to combine sensors, robotics and artificial intelligence to create a fleet of mobile field robots they hope will improve plant breeding and crop-management practices.
According to FarmView’s Senior Systems Scientist, George Kantor, robots can gather data in agricultural fields with an unprecedented level of accuracy and timeliness that can be used to help solve the world’s looming food crisis.
A mobile field robot can gather information that can be used to help growers make better management decisions that allows them to grow more, higher quality food with fewer land and water resources. They can even help crop breeders, produce higher-yielding crops faster.
How can a mobile field robot make a difference. For starters, it can take a visual survey of a vineyard at the start of the season and then use a combination of computer vision and machine learning to predict the expected fruit yield at the end of the season. Armed with this data, the farmer can act by using a robot to prune leaves or thin fruit to maintain an optimal balance between leaf area and fruit load. This action ensures a high fruit quality at the same time, reduces water and nutrient uptake.