A consortium of researchers from universities, private industry and the federal government is taking a new look at how robots could be used in specialty crop production. Several heavy hitters are on board, including Carnegie-Mellon University, so this is an effort to take seriously. One such technology already being used in fruit orchards is called the Autonomous Prime Mover:
Using laser guidance, the Autonomous Prime Mover can “see” the trees in an orchard and steer itself down the open lanes between rows …. it performs a variety of tasks that specialty crop growers would normally hire laborers to perform, including insect monitoring and elimination, weed management and detection, plant stress and disease detection, crop load scouting, caliper measurement of tree size and augmented fruit harvesting.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see how these kinds of technologies may be just as applicable in ornamental tree or shrub growing as in fruit production. Many of the same tasks apply. What’s more, production of this equipment could create more high-tech jobs while alleviating the worker shortages growers experience.