Can robots and AI help address the world’s food security issues?

Digital Farmhand. Australian Centre for Field Robotics.
Digital Farmhand. Australian Centre for Field Robotics.

Agricultural robotics expert Professor Salah Sukkarieh will this week address the United Nations on the role of agricultural robotics in improving global food security.

"Our Digital Farmhand robot is designed to assist smallholder farmers to improve their productivity and yields and, ultimately, provide a more reliable income amidst changing markets and climates. In its simplest form the Digital Farmhand is a small, autonomous electric tractor-like vehicle that can tow a variety of implements such as seeders, weeders and bed preparation tools, and can undertake precision automation of many labour-intensive farm tasks, like weeding, spraying and seeding."

"Digital Farmhand can also use accessible smartphone technologies along with AI to provide crop analytics such as yield estimation or pest and disease identification."

Professor Sukkarieh’s team is looking to build a localised, modular version of Digital Farmhand using materials that can be readily sourced within the APAC region, including electric/petrol scooter parts, making maintenance easier for communities. They are also developing open-source artificial intelligence packages for smartphones which can be easily accessed in the APAC. 

"Our studies and fieldwork have found that the issues concerning smallholder farmers in the APAC are no different to those in Australia, so we believe the technology can provide the same benefits. However, it is the economics of introducing the technology that requires different solutions."

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