Robots to Give Organic Agriculture an Extra Edge

June 4, 2016 | ProgressTH One of the biggest criticisms leveled against organic agriculture is the extra labor needed to weed between rows and the resulting soil erosion that occurs as soil is tilled during the weeding process. Claims that organic agriculture produces smaller yields are also common.

While organic farmers already are addressing these issues in a variety of innovative ways, the dropping cost in automation and robotics is opening many new options as well.

As robotic technology advances from academic experiments in agricultural applications to commercial applications, it is inevitable that whatever disadvantages organic agriculture may currently have, they may be more than made up for through the use of automation.

Imagine the best of both worlds, of organic agriculture that requires no dangerous and expensive chemicals or patented genetic alterations, coupled together with cutting edge technology farmers own that improves yields, soil health,  and reduces labor.

That is the promise agricultural robotics offers.

One company in particular, Rowbot, offers an automated system designed to ply through fields between rows of crops and more specifically, corn. The company's website claims:
Our Rowbots work in teams to apply nitrogen fertilizer in sync with corn needs, inter-seed cover-crops into tall corn, and collect data to inform both current and future work. 
Such a platform would be an incredible asset for organic farmers. Imagine using a less invasive means of uprooting weeds, doing it more often, and requiring no additional labor. A larger variety of ways to control pests mechanically rather than chemically may also be possible. And no matter what kind of farm you are running, platforms like Rowbot could help collect data from across your fields as it works to help inform your near and long-term decisions.

The best part about Rowbot is that it is small.

Its small size not only has the added advantage of being able to move through fields where manned equipment cannot, but by being small its construction requires little in the lines of heavy industry, and other small-scale innovators could easily create their own platforms or modifications based on platforms like Rowbot.

Small robots and drones are already becoming ubiquitous throughout society because of their increased utility and dropping prices, as well as the relatively small barriers for companies and even individuals to overcome when trying their hand at creating their own innovations.

In the near future, it is likely that such platforms will further help farmers become more independent from large-scale equipment manufacturers and chemical suppliers, and enable them to keep a larger profit margin for themselves, their families, and their communities, all while producing a superior product in the process. And isn't that what real technological progress should be all about?

See some more examples of how robots, automation, and other innovations are helping small farmers thrive here in this article.

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