This Robot Duck Takes Care of Rice Paddies
A Japanese engineer is testing a robot prototype that prevents the growth of weeds in rice fields.
For centuries, Japan used ducks as natural allies to control the proliferation of weeds in rice fields. The paddling of their wide feet would tear up the underwater plants and stir the soil, which prevented their growth by muddying the water. They would also prey on pests while manuring the paddy along the way. Today, the large extension of the rice fields and industrial production techniques have limited their use. However, a Nissan engineer has been exploring the potential of a device that mimics the movement of these birds. He has branded it “agiamo robo”, which means robot duck.
His robot duck, which resembles a domestic robotic cleaner, features a pair of rubber paddles that replicate the shape and movement of its cousins in the animal kingdom. Measuring twenty for inches square and with a 1.5-kilo weight, the prototype is already paddling around rice paddies in the prefecture of Yamagata as part of its first tests. Equipped with a GPS system, Wi-Fi connection and powered with solar energy, the machine is fully autonomous. Soon, this technology could help to reduce the use of herbicides and pesticides.
Currently, this is just an experimental technology project without commercial applications, but it could offer a viable alternative. Japan and Western countries are undergoing a shortage of farming labor, which is making robotics an attractive option to keep up with production. You can see the robot duck at work in the fields here.
A crop-monitoring robot
Asia is also the setting for another robotic farming initiative, this time in the Fujian province in China. There, the Fujian Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Fujian Newland Era Hi-Tech Co Ltd have developed a robot that moves around greenhouses to assess the health of the plants and the environmental conditions. Equipped with two 5 megapixels cameras and another couple of 7 megapixels ones, as well as sensors to measure the carbon dioxide levels, wind speed, humidity, and temperature, the robot uses 5G technology to communicate with the control center. Besides its hardware, artificial intelligence has been one of the main areas of research for engineers.
Thanks to the algorithms they have implemented, the robot can move freely around irregular terrains, as opposed to the neatly distributed areas of a factory. All the images and information collected by the device are later analyzed by computers with artificial intelligence software. Eventually, the goal is to establish the optimal conditions for greater automation of crops. The next stage for the engineers is to develop a fruit-picking robot with a bionic arm. As we already saw in this article about robotics, the full automation of farms may be happening sooner than expected.