Today, agricultural robots come in all shapes and sizes, but they really aren’t much different from a farm tractor, says Chuck Baresich, robotics expert and managing director of Haggerty Creek Ltd.
Last summer, Baresich joined OMAFRA’s Crop Innovation Specialist, Ian McDonald, for the Ontario Diagnostic Days video series on the evolution of robotic technology and its place on the farm.
Baresich notes that robotics in agriculture is not new. He says automated corn dryers are a good example of how the technology is being used in the cash crop industry; automatic pig graders are standard technology for pork producers; and milking robots are now commonly used by dairy farmers after their debut 25 years ago.
From a cash crop perspective, Baresich says he understands why growers might be envious of the way robotic technology has been integrated into livestock operations. However, he notes that farmers have an advantage when integrating robots because they often work in a confined space. “The challenges we see on the commercial crop side are that there are so many variables once you get the robot out of that designated space and that controlled environment,” he says.
In the livestock sector, Baresich notes that acreage and quantities are more easily controlled – farmers know how many cows to milk and how many pigs to sort, but in a field there are many unknown variables, including environmental factors to consider. (The story continues after the video.)
In the video, Baresich and McDonald divide agricultural robots into three categories and show examples of the technology in action. The first category is the stationary robot, which includes corn dryers and dairy milkers. The second category is made up of what Baresich calls small task-based or swarm-type robots typically used for soil sampling, inter-row cultivation, and weed control.
A final category includes larger robots that look like more traditional pieces of farm equipment. This includes the well-known DOT power platform, which was recently purchased by Raven Industries.