- Instead of using tractors, farmers are turning to robots to plant and harvest crops.
- Swarm technology, game theory and infrared communications are being used to advance farming.
The future of farming lies not with genetically engineered seeds or super-fertilizers, instead it may come in new ways to plant, grow and harvest crops using robots instead of tractors.
That's according to an Iowa-based inventor who is basing his new bio-inspired autonomous robo-farmer on the swarming skills of insects, birds and fish.
By integrating swarm technology with game theory and robotic cooperation through infrared communications, David Dourhout has built several bug-like robo-farmers called Prospero that can plant individual seeds and remember where they are.
The small six-legged robots successfully planted an Iowa cornfield in a test run, and Dourhout hopes the next step will be to create more advanced robots that can weed, fertilize and harvest the crop.
"For last 1,000 years, the focus has been to increase the productivity of each farmer: building better implements, using horses, and the invention of McCormick's reapers and tractors," said Dourhout, a consulting entomologist and robot hobbyist. "But the real gains come in increasing productivity of the land itself."