Robots ready to lend Australian farmers a high-tech hand

Source: Xinhua| 2019-08-09 15:15:52|Editor: ZX
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SYDNEY, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- This year, the Royal Queensland Show (Ekka) in the Australian state of Queensland will feature some of the latest in advanced robotics and artificial intelligence, aimed at making farmers live easier and their operations more profitable.

Now in it's 142 year, the Ekka, the annual agricultural show, kicked off on Friday and will attract an estimated 400,000 visitors across nine days for a range of agricultural displays, competitions and family entertainment.

The Australian Centre for Robotic Vision (ACRV), which is headquartered at the Queensland University of Technology, rolled out some of their latest and greatest creations for the show with their eyes set firmly on improving farming for the benefit of all.

"With the global population projected to hit 9.8 billion in 2050, it's vital we remain focused on giving the next generation of robots the vision and understanding to help solve real-world challenges like sustainable food production," ACRV Associate Investigator Chris Lehnert said.

Among the ACRV's display is Harvey, one of the world's best robotic harvesters, which is capable of visually identifying and collecting products autonomously -- potentially saving fruit and vegetable farmers from high costs and shortages of workers.

"The future potential of robotics in indoor protected cropping will be the ability to intelligently sense, think and act in order to reduce production costs and maximise output value in terms of crop yield and quality," Lehnert said.

"Robotics taking action, such as autonomous harvesting within indoor protected cropping will be a game changer for growers who are struggling to reduce their production costs," he said.

With Harvey helping farmers on the ground, in the skies, ACRV's investigator Felipe Gonzalez hopes that remote sensing drones might also play a part in helping farmers in maximising their productivity.

Equipped with machine learning and hyperspectral cameras, the drones are already showing huge potential for Australia's wine industry by successfully identifying an aphid-like insect which is known as "the world's worst grapevine pest."

Gonzalez explained that each vine has a unique hyperspectral signature, which changes with the level of pest infestation.

"By using hyperspectral technology, we are able to look at not only the vineyard as a whole, but also each individual grape vine, and we are able to detect very subtle differences in the plants, to assess the presence of disease," Gonzalez said.

The Royal Queensland show will run from Aug. 9 to 18.