In the future, robots will increasingly replace farm workers, using artificial intelligence to plant, grow and harvest our food.
In fact, many farms are already using fleets of robots, which can tend to fruits and veggies more efficiently than a human can.
Here’s a look at seven machines that are currently aiding farmers around the world.
The Wall-Ye prunes vineyards.
French inventor Christophe Millot created an autonomous bot, called the Wall-Ye, that helps to prune and harvest grapes at vineyards.
Using infrared sensors and scissor-hands, it can detect and snip weak vines as well as monitor the health of the soil and grapes.
Before it can start working, the system is programmed with a map of the vineyard so that it knows where to go.
The BoniRob destroys 120 weeds per minute.
Bosch, a German company best known for manufacturing blenders and power drills, has invented a robot that can kill weeds faster than any human or herbicide.
The BoniRob roams through fields and finds weeds, stomping out two per second with a 1-centimeter-wide drill. That way, the weeds won’t overrun the crops.
Abundant Robotics’ bot picks one ripe apple per second.
A startup called Abundant Robotics Inc. is developing robots that picks apples when they are ripe. It uses computer vision to find the apples and harvest them quickly and efficiently.
The bots were designed to to remove one fruit per second without damaging any part of the fruit or tree, TechCrunch notes. As seen above, a built-in tube sucks up the apples like a vacuum.
The Blue River Lettuce Bot thins out lettuce fields.
The Lettuce Bot is like a “Roomba for Weeds,” notes Modern Farmer.
Developed by the California-based startup Blue River, the device attaches to a tractor. Using sensors, it can detect insects and weeds and spray pesticides only on those areas.
In the future, Blue River hopes to modify the Lettuce Bot to kill weeds without any chemicals — perhaps with a rotating blade.
In addition, it can thin out lettuce fields, killing a portion of the plants so the rest have room to grow. According to Blue River, it can treat about 5,000 plants in a minute.
The Prospera bot ‘sees’ dying plants before farmers can.
By the time a farm worker notices that crops are dying, it’s often too late. Caterpillars or viruses have preyed on the tomatoes and spinach, and the crops are gone.
A new robotic system, called Prospera, uses a network of cameras and sensors to detect invaders and recognize when crops are sick. It then alerts farmers and tells them about the problem through an app.
Founded in 2014, Prospera now works with some of the largest vegetable growers in the world, including ones that supply to Walmart and British grocery giant Tesco. It’s also expanding to orchards and vineyards that range from 50 to 4,000 acres.
The Hornet drone measures the health of crops from above.
This flying bot created by the robotics startup Agribotix works like a normal drone, in that it can fly hundreds of feet in the air at speeds up to 33 mph.
Called the Hornet, the bot helps farmers get a bird’s-eye view of their fields.
It takes aerial photos and videos of fields from above and analyzes crop health using infrared sensors. If a particular part of the field appears to have an issue, the bot will alert the farmers using an app.
The Rover keeps cattle in line.
Developed by the Sydney University’s Center for Field Robotics, the Rover is designed to herd cattle.
It’s still in the testing phase — and the prototype is still operated by a human for now — but cows in trials have responded well, according to the BBC.
The robot uses sensors, cameras, and GPS technology to track where cows are and where they need to go. It moves at a steady cow-speed (just a few miles per hour) so they don’t feel rushed or surprised.
While a human being currently has to guide Rover, the researchers plan to automate it. A future version might also collect data on the soil quality, look for damage to the farm’s fences, and check water troughs.