It cost $20 million to set up, according to ABC News.Getty Images
- An Australian farm is now fully automated and “hands-free.”
- On the farm, artificial intelligence, robots, and smart sensors do the farming.
- The 1,900-hectare farm will demonstrate how tech can make the industry more productive and efficient.
Technological innovation isn’t just spreading to smart cities, intelligent buildings, or new hybrid work models; robots are also revolutionizing agriculture with artificial intelligence, autonomous tractors, sensors that monitor crops in real time, drones, or fruit and vegetable-harvesting robots.
In Australia, innovators have just presented the country’s first fully automated farm.
It cost $20 million to set up, according to ABC News.
Conducted by researchers at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, Australia in partnership with the Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre, the project could see farmers sat behind screens while the robots pick the crops.
Hands-free farming, the future of farming is nigh
The automated farm spans 1,900 hectares and could set a precedent for what robotics and AI have to offer for “hands-free” farming.
Among the tech on the farm are drones, robot tractors, harvesters, and smart sensors to measure, for example, carbon emissions released into the atmosphere.
The hope is that artificial intelligence will improve decision-making around planting, conditioning, and harvesting.
“It won’t be long before technology takes farmers out of the field and immerses them in the world of robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence,” Food Agility CEO Richard Norton said in the press release. “Full automation is not a distant concept; there are already mines in the Pilbara operated entirely in this way.”
The researchers will also set up a state-of-the-art cyber secure environment to address emerging cybersecurity risks in food production.
Sensors will measure interactions between plants, soils, and animals — and together, robots, AI, and algorithms will be able to establish evidence-based food sustainability practices and models.
The farm is already operating at a commercial level, and early trials will keep it running at night while farmers sleep.
This smart farm isn’t the only recent invention to be driving change in food production: vertical farms save space in cities, smart greenhouses can be run with few resources, and artificial meat companies are stopping a lot of greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the atmosphere.
Documents like the recent life cycle assessment report from sustainability firm Quantis show that Impossible Foods’ burgers created 89% fewer emissions during the production process compared to traditional animal rearing.
As for concerns about jobs being potentially lost to robots, World Economic Forum short-term estimates show that automation will create 97 million jobs, more than it will displace.
In addition to the fact that automation will complement farm work rather than replacing farmers, some laborers could go from the orchard to sitting at a desk managing farming software.